Photo: Chiara Pinna
(The Take Time series appears the first Friday of the month.)
"So, I thought I would die my hair purple and buy clown shoes."
"You're not even listening to me!"
At that point my husband's eyes met mine as he responded, "Yes, I am."
"What did I just say?"
Yeah, he had no clue! True story.
People want to be heard. But listening can be hard.
We're distracted by the news, Facebook, the weekly sale sheets, people walking past, the food on our plates! We're distracted by our list of things to do - grocery shopping, laundry, phone calls, and "why on earth did she even say that to me?” Any of a gazillion things.
Taking time to listen is not a skill we're born with - we have to practice listening.
Not just a fake listening where we wait for someone to take a breath so we can jump in with a response, but genuine listening.
Then ask questions as it pertains to what they just said, acknowledging you've heard them.
6 Tips for Active Listening
Make Eye Contact
Let them know they have your full attention. Don't look around to see what else is going on or for someone else you need to connect with. Keep your eyes fixed on theirs as if they're the only person in the room.
You may have a solution to their problem or situation, but unless they ask for it, don’t interrupt. Give them a chance to tell their story before you give advice.
I know what I just said. But if you are having trouble understanding what they are saying, go ahead and interrupt. Ask questions to clarify what they are communicating. Don’t ask a question that might take them down a rabbit trail into another conversation, allow them to finish their story.
Let them know you’re listening to what they’re saying. “That’s awesome!” “Oh, how painful for you.” “Yay for good news.” Nod your head and do the “uh-huh” thing so they know you’re engaged.
Mostly your cell phone, especially if they need your undivided attention. Resist the urge to check Facebook or respond to a text message or email. Checking the weather can wait, and so can thanking a Twitter follower who retweeted you. Turn your phone off for a few minutes.
Let There Be Silence
When the speaker pauses for a breath or to think about the right way to say the next thing, it’s not time for you to jump in with your thoughts and opinions. Just let there be silence for a minute, and that’s ok.
When you practice becoming a good listener it makes people feel like you value what they have to say. They learn to trust you because you make them feel important.
In what ways can you improve your listening skills? Do you have tips or tricks that make you a better listener? Share in the comments below or via Twitter or Facebook.