Just Listen – It’s So Important

Think of the last time you had a conversation with someone, even your own child. Who spoke? Who listened? Can you remember what you talked about? In fact, most of us think we’re good listeners, but studies have shown that is often far from the case. The consequences of poor listening can lead to a lack of understanding and connection, not only impacting our relationships, but almost every aspect of our lives. When we give the gift of listening to others, we help both them and us.

Deep listening is the conscious decision to fully concentrate on what a person is saying – to be completely focused on the individual and their words without distraction.  It is not the same thing as listening to respond or waiting “your turn” to speak. According to noted psychologist Carl Rogers, at the heart of every healthy relationship is the ability of partners to actively listen. When partners listen for understanding and not response, they are much more likely to be receptive to growth and change.

If you find yourself interrupting someone, making suggestions, or even formulating a response in your head as the other person speaks, you are most likely not listening for understanding. As with any worthwhile skill, practice can make us better listeners. Here are some first steps we can take:

  • Try to put yourself in the place of the speaker.
  • Think of what you would want from someone else in this conversation.
  • Listen to understand what the individual is saying.
  • Pay attention to the individual’s body language and tone.
  • Look into someone’s eyes as they’re speaking. Try to really see them.
  • Don’t interrupt or make suggestions.
  • When you do speak, try summarizing what the other person has said to make sure you do understand.
  • Avoid the temptation to “fix” something.

By practicing deep listening, we are giving an invaluable gift to the other person as well as improving our own ability to relate to and support others.

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