When we pay full attention to what someone is saying, it contributes to people feeling validated and recognised.
One of the most valuable gifts you can give someone is to be present for them whilst they talk to you. If you think back over your last interaction with someone, did you listen properly? By this I mean really listen to them with your full attention?
Modern psychology states that something like 78% of our communication is non-verbal. This means when people are speaking their words may be saying one thing but their tonality, the volume of what they’re saying and body language, may all be communicating something else.
For example someone says, “Of course I love you!” in an aggressive tone. Or someone is saying yes whilst unconsciously shaking his or her head side to side in a ‘No’ fashion.
It’s the same when we’re listening, if we are only half paying attention to what someone is saying, we are giving mixed messages. What we’re really saying is, I’m not really listening because what I’d like to be getting on with, or saying is far more important than anything you have to say! These mixed messages are confusing for people and add to negative feelings and low self-esteem. It’s poor communication.
Successful business entrepreneur Brian Tracy uses the quote ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’ a good premise for excellent communication.
The art of active listening requires practice and since many people like to talk about themselves, there’s usually plenty of opportunity for that.
Effective listening underpins healthy, positive relationships.
How do you stop your mind from wandering when the person in front of you is talking and perhaps you’ve heard it all before? Breathe, focus on your breath for a moment and then guide your unruly mind back to the person on the other end of the phone or the face of the person who’s standing in front of you. What if that was the last time you ever saw them, spoke with them? Would you be happy at how you had received them?
I once witnessed a situation where one person was sharing something really personal and heartfelt and the other person emptied the entire contents of her handbag looking for something. When the first person stopped talking the other eventually looked up and said “Go on, I am listening.” Was that active listening? What do you think?
So what is active listening? Here’s my top ten tips for attentive listening.
- Where possible stop what you are doing
- Make eye contact with the person who is speaking.
- Stand or sit directly in front of them.
- Aim to keep your own facial expressions to a minimum, no raised eyebrows or eyes rolling to the sky.
- Remain still, without fiddling or rummaging when someone is speaking to you.
- Refrain from sounds such as ‘tut’ ‘phew’ or other non-verbal sounds.
- When you think they have finished speaking, allow a space, they may not have finished.
- Don’t talk over people.
- Don’t interrupt.
- If someone is talking slower than your mind is working, don’t finish their sentences, there’s just a chance, you’re not a mind reader and don’t quite know what they’re going to say.
Looking forward to your feedback.