Listening is the basis of communication and building lasting relationships. It’s more than just hearing what the other person is saying, which makes it crucial to become a better listener.
It’s about telling what they are feeling by their verbal cues, nonverbal cues, the tone of their voice, and the words they use.
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This way, you can respond in a way that will make your relationships more meaningful.
It’s a common practice to focus on your thoughts when communicating while waiting impatiently to share your opinion. Also, most people start formulating their responses before the other person finishes speaking. In your haste to share your opinion, you may find yourself talking louder or cutting the other person short so that you may say what you think is important.
To become a better listener
To master the art of communication, you must put your whole heart, attention, and interest into listening and genuinely understanding what is being said. Plus, several listening skills can improve your listening abilities and, subsequently, your communication and relationships.
Listening is a conscious activity. And this doesn’t come as a surprise given, on average, people speak about 150 words per minute, but can cognitively process more than three times the number of words they speak (our brains can process about 400-600 words per minute). So it’s easy to find yourself drifting into your thoughts when listening.
As Henri Nouwen, a Dutch priest, said: “Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening, speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness no longer cures.”
Giving the speaker your full attention shows them that you are interested in what they are telling you. It can help build your relationship because it shows them what they are saying is more important than your phone, thoughts, or outside distractions.
Attention should also be accompanied by reflection. You have to paraphrase and clarify what has been said to understand. Plus, meditation helps you realize what you’ve misunderstood.
Robert McKay said: “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize what you heard is not what I meant.”
Empathy is a critical component in mastering the art of listening. When you understand your partner’s or friend’s feelings, you start seeing issues from their point of view. That way, you can respond in a way that shows them you appreciate their opinions.
In relationships, empathy helps in conflict resolution. If you understand your partner’s or friend’s point of view, you quickly find a solution that works for you both.
Remember, most people have never had someone listen to them. Therefore, open-mindedness is essential in communication because people don’t want to feel judged.
Listening without an open mind will make them shut down and return to their shells. Many people live a lonely existence where nobody knows them. They are stereotyped or judged narrowly and superficially — and more often than not, that’s not their natural character.
Of course, it’s not easy being non-judgmental because every person brings their beliefs, prejudices, history, filters, and biases into every conversation. But it’s something a good listener should cultivate.
When people around you feel that they genuinely have a say, their output will increase, and communication will improve.
Ask the right questions
It takes two to tango when communicating since listening doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is a back-and-forth dance of speaking and receiving feedback. Even as you master the art of listening, you should hone the skill of asking the right questions.
Most of the time, the speaker doesn’t want unsolicited advice. Instead, they wish to be fully heard, so it’s important to avoid offering suggestions too quickly without knowing what they want from you. Here, you can explicitly ask what they want from you after listening.
Healthy relationships: Becoming a good communicator through listening
Communication is one of the most significant elements of a healthy relationship. Effective speaking and listening require you to overcome your inborn self-centeredness and offer yourself to include others in your world with your full attention and interest. There’s a specific Zen-like aspect in mastering the art of listening.
Listening and understanding are skills you should hone in all your personal, business, and work-related relationships. And by mastering the fine art of listening, you can improve the quality of your communication and relationships.