Self-Helpapedia

Powerful techniques to optimize your emotions, beliefs, and behaviors

Tips on Listening Well

A large part of communications is listening. When someone desires to communicate with another, they are doing this to let the other person know they desire something or wish to express important feelings or thoughts. Communicating is both verbal and non-verbal through body language and intonation. Workable communications arrives when folks send and receive messages that are clear and understandable.

What commonly gets in the way of good communication is when messages involve too many issues or unrequired details. Points get lost. Intonation and body language may be incongruent with the message sent. Maybe the voice is inaudible or the receiver is anxious and failing to pay attention to what's being said.

Problems show up when we're more interested pushing our own particular viewpoint rather than hearing out what the other fellow says. We wait for openings, spot flaws, or plunge ahead. Perhaps we fake attention while impatiently waiting to jump in. Maybe a defensive remark is being formulated which takes our inward attention.

Giving someone our full ear is very important to communications. We truly want to understand the other person's view, their feelings, the meaning of what's being communicated. Throughout the conversation we may be examining our own understanding by restating what the other person is saying and getting it verified.

It's key to good listening to know where to focus. Do we focus on the facts or the emotions of the situation? If we're talking with someone who's upset, they're liable to get more upset if we miss the correct focus of the message being communicated. Good listening also involves getting the message so we know what the other person is feeling and thinking. We need to step into the other person's shoes and look out through their eyes. We might not agree, but we require understanding the other person's views.

Good listening skills minimize misunderstandings. If we're really paying attention we'll know immediately when a misunderstanding occurs. Clarification follows and keeps the communication flowing.

There are payoffs for developing good listening skills. Often if someone is heard they may loosen their position or consider alternative viewpoints. Areas of agreement are more apt to be noticed which creates less conflict and tension.

Sometimes folks notice gaps in their thinking when they hear themselves uncritically repeated. Listening attentively can also help us to notice flaws in our own approach. The speaker can become more aware of what they're saying when they're paraphrased or mirrored back.

Pointers for Better Listening

Paraphrase in your own words. This lets the other person know you understand what's being said and that you're not merely repeating.

Mirror back their sense of the facts, their evaluations, and what they desire and expect. Let them know you recognize their feelings.

Let someone see when you appreciate what was just said.

Know when to speak up and give your message. Get a sense of the rhythm of the give and take.

Avoid long stretches of muteness without some feedback on your part. Often the speaker may feel some unease that their message is not being heard.

Know that sometimes when folks ask questions they are thinking out loud. They may not be asking for a response or a solution.

If you're confused by what the other person is saying, speak up and ask for clarification or say it in another way so you'll have a clearer understanding.

The other person may be angry. Withhold defensiveness or knee jerk responses. By listening closely and getting what they're saying, they will begin to wind down.

Get the feeling and intention of what they're saying. This comes from getting an overall sense of what's being communicated.

Be accepting and empathetic with the person. Be respectful of their viewpoint even if you still hold yours and it's 190 degrees from theirs.

Avoid yeah--uh huh's. Especially avoid machine gunning uh huh's.

Watch out for nervous questions or too many questions.

It's okay to joke, but avoid it during intimate stretches or the speaker may interpret this as a deflection.

Nod at the other person's words, yet avoid becoming a bobbing head.

Avoid name calling, blaming, being quick to change the subject, sarcasm, talking down, and any variety of defensiveness.

It doesn't hurt to find truth in the other person's statements. If they say: "You spend too much time doing X." Then you can reply: "Yes sometimes I do spend too much time doing X."

Rather than right/wrong rope pulls aim for mutual problem solving discussions. Imagine what it would be like to work in harmony. Cooperation and problem solving works far better than arguing and blaming.

What are the most frequent blocks to good listening?

1. We think we're right and the other person is wrong.
2. We believe the other person is to blame for the difficulty.
3. We can't stand being told anything.
4. We believe we're numero uno and the center of the universe.
5. We believe we deserve better treatment.
6. We have a dire need to make a point.
7. We believe we're victims of unfairness and injustice.
8. We fail to see our impact on others.
9. We miss our part in the problem.
10. We habitually fall into opposition.
11. We have a dire need to speak.
12. We can't wait to get in our licks.
13. We can't face criticism.
14. We feel we have to provide help right away.
15. We are convinced the other person is bragging or being dishonest.
16. We believe others don't have the right to feel or speak the way they do.
17.We believe others are behaving irrationally or illogically.
18. We are convinced that the Almighty is on our side.
19. We think we have a right to righteous indignation.
20. We sense we're the fountain of wisdom.

 

Watch out for attempting to trap others in lie telling. This checking implies the other person is not trustworthy. Often folks respond to how they are perceived by acting as they are viewed. Put someone on the defensive and they will often respond defensively.


If someone shows every sign of avoiding a certain subject, then don't pull teeth with probing questions. Let them relax and open up. The more accepting you are, the more likely they are to be open.

Grimacing and eye rolls should be stricken from our "listening skills". These point blank tell the other person what they're saying is being rejected.

Allow others to be right. Trying to prove our correctness during a conversation shuts it down quickly.

Notice the impact of your communication and your presence.

Make comfortable eye contact, but don't stare. Don't check your watch or glance around the room. Head nodding lets them know you're there. Avoid the closed position that arm folding provides. Touch the other person if it seems appropriate.

Take care, Steve

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