(WellnessPursuits.com) – You probably know that being a great listener improves your relationships, your career and your studies. But do you know how to become a better listener? Good listeners already know about maintaining eye contact, minimizing distractions (electronic and otherwise) and not talking over the other person with input or interruptions. Great listeners use the following little known tricks to excel in all areas of their lives.
Center on the Here and Now
We all have lists of things to do and pressures to deal with, but the best listeners defy the laws of physics by suspending time and space and making the person they are talking with the center of their universe. By that seemingly simple act, you convey respect, empathy and a sense of engagement by shrinking your world to one other person for the duration of your conversation.
Repeat What The Speaker Said
Often in conversation, we spend time thinking about what we’re going to say next rather than actually listening. It can seem like we aren’t listening, even if we are. Try paraphrasing what the speaker said at the beginning of your response to let your conversation partner know they were heard and understood.
For example, your partner says to you, “I’m upset about how much money we spent eating out this month when we don’t have enough to pay all the bills.” Rather than jumping in to defend your behavior, start by saying, “I understand that you’re worried about paying the bills, and you think we ate out too much this month.” This validates your partner and assures your partner that you’re clear on what they’re saying, without reacting defensively.
Not all conversations are easy-going. When you are faced with difficult subjects or criticisms that are difficult to hear, try to avoid defensiveness and maintain an open mind. The best listeners manage to remain engaged even and especially when dealing with personally challenging information.
As the name would suggest, this trick is something that therapists use. But you can use it in regular conversations to become an amazing listener. Therapeutic listening means listening to understand rather than to react, solve, or obey. It requires not being afraid of silence. Most people have an aversion to silence so they rush to speak to fill it. If you can become comfortable with silence, it might allow you to pick up on what’s being left unsaid, which is sometimes more important.
Don’t Jump To Conclusions
Our brains are fast at processing, and one of the ways we do this is by recognizing patterns. Unfortunately, when it comes to listening, this skill sometimes works against us. Instead of actually listening, sometimes we jump to conclusions about what people are going to say, either because of things they’ve said before or because we assume they’re thinking the same thing we are. This can lead to confusion at best and frustration at worst.
Ask Insightful Questions
Being a great listener isn’t just about silently absorbing information, it’s about interacting and conversing. Asking thoughtful, on-topic questions that might lead to reflection and discovery shows you are truly engaged, listening and interactive. Listening is part of a cooperative, conversive experience — it’s part of a dance of communication involving body language, spoken language, facial expressions, and even poignant silences.
Start with a Deep Breath
When you do speak, start with a deep breath. The simple act of pausing before you speak will allow you to make sure the person you’re talking with is finished, preventing you from missing something important. It will also give you time to organize your own thoughts and relax before you speak, making your responses more germane to the conversation.
Using these little known tricks will make you a great listener at home, work, or out with friends. Improved listening skills allow you to hear what others may miss and may help you to excel in all your relationships!
~Here’s to Your Healthy Pursuits!
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