Hello, and welcome to part 2 of our look at our marvellous senses. This week, I’d like to encourage you to think about your listening skills, and how they related to your other senses and link to your resilience too. So, just a narrow, uncomplicated brief, then!
Last week, we looked at the fast pace of life, and the benefits of slowing down and taking your time. Listening, really listening to someone is a great way to slow yourself down, and helps you process your thoughts carefully when communicating with someone. At the same time, you give the other person the most precious gift: time.
So, what is good listening, and what does it achieve? Being an effective listener is a vital skill for anyone, including life coaches. The best listeners I’ve personally experienced make me feel as though they have all the time in the world to listen to me and let me do the talking. But most of all, I feel they really hear me. Listening and hearing are often different. And consider what you do when you listen to someone too. Which of your other senses do you bring in? Are you watching them? Are you empathising (feeling)?
How do you think the person you’re listening to would like to be heard? How often have you been in a conversation with someone, telling them something important to you, only to hear them say as soon as you draw breath: “Well I had that experience. This is what happened to me. I went there. I did that.” How does it make you feel, that they can’t wait for you to finish before jumping in to tell you all about them?
Next time you’re in a conversation:
- assume anything. People are always full of surprises!
- judge. Their perspective may not be the same as yours. It doesn’t make them wrong.
- be tempted to take their story and tell them about the time you experienced the same thing. This is not all about you.
- fidget, look away, talk over or interrupt. This makes people feel at best irritated, and at worst, disempowered.
- choose your time and place carefully. The person you are talking to deserves your full attention, without distractions or feeling that they are being rushed.
- clarify what the other person is saying to make sure you’ve understood completely. Prompt with questions if necessary.
- use the 80/20 rule: if you’re really listening properly, they will be talking 80% of the time, compared to your 20%.
- watch them and look for non-verbal clues to help you understand and empathise. The other person may not verbalise everything, but body language speaks volumes too.
- if it’s appropriate, take notes to avoid having to interrupt: it will help you recall your ideas when it’s your turn to speak. (useful in business meetings, or tricky 1:1 conversations)
- find out what they want. It may be that you’re needed as a sounding board, rather than a fixer.
- try closing your eyes if you’re listening over the phone. It may help you concentrate on what the other person is saying without visual distractions; as one of your senses is removed, another becomes sharper.
- embrace the occasional silence. It gives both of you time to reflect and gather your thoughts. “Listen” is an anagram of “silent”!
When you’ve had a great conversation with someone, there will be a win-win feeling. They feel empowered; you feel good too. Powerful communication is great for resilience-building.
And do also remember the additional power of listening when you’re on your own too. Focus in on a sound. Consider its pitch, tone, edges, if you like. It could be a piece of music, or simply the rain against the window. It’s all a form of mindful “being”, as discussed last week, and a great tool in your resilience toolbox.