Friday, September 6, 2013

The Art of Listening

Most of us aren't naturally good listeners. And a lot of the few who do consider themselves to be good listeners, aren't.

Over this past year, I've grown to become a better listener. Not sure I'd call myself a good listener, but that's not really the point.

The point is that now that I'm putting more effort into listening well, I've noticed when people really suck at listening. So I'm going to list some listening "don'ts" and then I'm going to list some "dos".

Don't:

Finish someone's sentence. That is rude and annoying and shows that you were really just trying to guess what they were going to say instead of enjoying the process of their communication

Interrupt their sentence with your example of a similar situation/thought/feeling/etc. Yes, maybe you want to show that you think you understand what they're going through, but all it does is devalue that person's story.

Correct them because you believe they're thinking wrongly. Okay, I am really bad about this one. And until someone else did it to me, I never knew how horrible it felt to be corrected in the middle of a story. What's important when you're listening is not your take on their story, but their safety in telling you the story. Get it?

Look at your phone, for Pete's sake. Nothing feels worse than talking to a friend as you watch them constantly checking their phone every time in beeps. Turn the darn thing OFF, people!

Pretend to be listening when you're not. If you can't give someone your full attention, tell them straight up and ask if you can talk at a more convenient time when you are not so distracted. Ahhh-sounds so obvious once you read it, right?

Give advice as soon as they have stopped talking. You may think you have the answer to their problems. But your answer is probably not what they really need. We all really just need a safe place to process and eventually we'll come to the right conclusion.

Try to connect the dots of their story and the rest of their lives and your life and the life of your friends. That's really annoying, y'all. Unless you're GOD, you don't actually know how it all connects, so let others just tell their own damn stories!
Notice that this is a picture of an ass.
Do:

Shut up. And listen. Hear them out, take it all in, empathize, and avoid judgment at all costs.

Make note of what their story is teaching you, but don't make that the focal point of the ensuing conversation. Learn from what you hear. Amazing concept.

Be safe. Don't go and blabber to everyone you know what you've just found out. (I was once very idiotic about this) What you know is not known so that you can show off for knowing it.

Focus on the person's heart. Most stories reveal heart needs and wounds and growth. Friendship is a matter of the heart and hearing someone's heart is a privilege.

Feel free to clarify. If you're confused by what they mean about something, ask them to clarify. That will help as you process what they're saying and they'll know you're really listening.

Thank them for sharing with you. It truly is a gift to be trusted with a part of someone's story.

Give advice when asked for it. And then be kind.


Just a quick reminder to remember what it feels like to just get something off your chest. Now think about the kind of person you'd most want to talk to. How does that person do a good job of listening? Why would you feel safe there?

Want to add anything to my lists? Do it!



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