To be listened too and heard is a striking experience! This is partly because it happens so rarely. People feel “bigger” when they are being listened to; they have more presence, they feel safer, more secure and they begin to trust.
Most people assume that they are great listeners. What most of us don’t realise is that it takes a conscious effort to be an outstanding listener.
Outstanding listening is more than nodding and agreeing. Listening effectively means getting ourselves out of the way so that we hear exactly what is said; without making assumptions and without making interpretations about it’s meaning (or making the conversation about us – including stories about how the subject relates to us).
This is challenging because we are trained over the years to make ‘jump-in reasoning’ about what someone means (when they are talking) as a way to ‘fast track’ a conversation. ‘Standard’ listening is what most of us engage in.
Concentrates on the speaker
Responds to what the speaker has said with empathy (not sympathy)
Makes a response that is relevant to what the speaker has said
Asks a question to check their understanding
Makes comments (and agreement) without interrupting the speaker
Evaluates what they are hearing
Remains alert through good body language (posture particularly)
Allows the speaker’s conversation to flow
Are preoccupied with self or other things
Concentrate more on how they will respond rather than what is being said
Often respond with “yes” “yes” “yes”
Do not check understanding
Speak and/or interrupt
Respond with how the subject relates to them; making the conversation about themselves instead of the other person
Assumes they fully understand how someone is feeling; we can never fully understand what another is feeling as we are not that person, however we can empathise with another person based on what we think they may be feeling (based on our own experiences).