In this day and age, there is a lot of emphasis on more effective forms of communication. One of the things that’ll help enrich your relationships, solve problems, and resolve conflicts – be it personal or professional – is being a better listener. And while good listening skills can help you in every aspect of your life, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Mindful listening requires practice, patience and effort. That’s why we had our resident therapist, Shahrukh Malik, offer her advice on how one can get better at listening. Read on to learn more:
Why Is Listening So Important
Shahrukh says that when it comes to any kind of relationship, there are two people, both of whom would need to express themselves in a way where they feel safe and heard. Listening also plays a very crucial role in the building and maintenance of virtually all relationships, as it shows the other person that we are able to stay present with their thoughts, feelings and ideas. Apart from the relational aspect, listening can also be a great way to learn new things from those around you, and can be an incredible tool for one’s own personal growth.
What Is Bad Listening?
In order to understand bad listening, one needs to know what is good listening. Shahrukh says that the role of a good listener is essentially to hold space for someone and allow them to express themselves freely without being interrupted, judged, or dismissed. Five qualities of a good listener are being empathetic, curious, compassionate, understanding and non-judgmental.
Bad listening skills on the other hand would include things like interjecting your own thoughts and feelings about the person’s experience, being constantly distracted by your phone (or whatever else is around you), looking elsewhere, yawning, saying dismissive things like “oh, that doesn’t sound so bad, it could have been worse!” and interrupting the person unnecessarily.
Active Listening Vs Effective Listening
In terms of active and effective listening, they are relatively similar. Active listening is essentially a part of effective listening. The former focuses on exactly what the person is trying to say, and understanding it thoroughly, while asking questions along the way. Whereas the latter takes into account non-verbal cues from the person, really understanding how they feel, and empathizing with their experience. Essentially, active listening is more technical, whereas effective communication takes into account emotions, body language and genuine connection.
The key to all effective communication is listening. Listening helps in both a professional manner as well as in daily life. In a professional setting, it improves customer satisfaction, leads to greater productivity in the workplace, more creativity and innovative work. In our daily life, listening improves relationships, knowledge, understanding, prevents problems from rising, saves time and energy, and leads to better results!
Stages Of The Listening Process
The listening process consists of five steps: receiving, understanding, remembering, evaluating and responding. The receiving stage involves the ear because it is the primary tool that is needed in this phase. After the hearing of the message comes the understanding stage, in which we focus on the meaning and the interpretation of the message. Remembering comes with listening; if you can’t recall something that was previously said, you may have not been listening effectively. The fourth stage is evaluating, or assessing the value of the message. Lastly, the final stage of the listening process is responding, which entails the feedback process.
Tips To Be A Better Listener
Here are some things that Shahrukh suggests we try do in order to get better at listening during conversations:
One of the things you can do in order to be a better listener is to express genuine curiosity in terms of what the other person is saying. Ask questions that will prompt them to elaborate on their experience. Be interested and alert in what the other person is saying.
Maintain Eye Contact
This is something that will help you better connect with the person you’re communicating with. With face-to-face communication, you can detect the expression someone is feeling through their actions.
Repeat Their Words Back To Them In A Concise Manner
This will reassure them that you are still with them, and that you are fully engaged in what they’re trying to communicate with you.
There are times when you’re talking to someone, and they might randomly pick up their phone and start texting, or browse through social media – don’t be that person. Try to stay as present as you can with the person sitting in front you.
Nodding Your Head Or Giving Minimal Responses
Sometimes a person might be talking for a while, and all you need to do is nod your head every now and then, maybe add in a “hmm”, “yeah” or “go on”. This is just to reassure them that you are still listening – so yes, give head nods and reactions wherever appropriate (but actually listen too!).
You Don’t Need To Give An Opinion Right Away
Sometimes a person just needs to be heard and validated, they might not be looking for an opinion. So, wait until they are finished and then respond.