In my last post, I talked a bit about why listening can be difficult – especially when the conversation is a tough one; the stakes are high; we are feeling offended or we feel accused of something. This time, I want to talk a bit about some things we can be aware of or we can do, that can help us to listen better.
Five Tips for Better Listening
- Recognize that “I’ve been triggered” feeling. When you are feeling better (not triggered, that is), see if you can unpack the trigger and the feeling either by yourself or with the person that you were triggered with (make sure you feel emotionally safe). Ask yourself, “what was it about what that person said or did or emoted that made me react like that? Be gentle on yourself, it may take some time to get there.
- Suspend your agenda. Suspending your agenda means inviting the other person to say more about what they are thinking or feeling so that you can gain a fuller understanding of what they are trying to communicate. This is hard because we want to be heard – we all want to say our part.
- Don’t assume that you know what is coming next! That isn’t listening – that is prediction and it will get you into difficulties.
- Put aside your judgments of the person who is speaking. Don’t assume that they don’t have something valuable to say.
- If someone says something that feels critical to you –remind yourself that underneath your feelings are some negative thoughts about criticism. Try to remind yourself that uncomfortable but accurate evaluation is an opportunity to grow.
We all need help and practice to improve our listening ability. Are there other techniques that you use to help yourself stay focused on listening?