Listening skills are probably the most important skill behind reading. Learning to listen, and actively hear what is said is also essential. Below are steps to take if you need help listening to what people REALLY say to you.
Active listening is hearing the other person for understanding. However, most of us listen to be able to react or frame a response quickly. Don’t do that! Don’t listen for yourself to answer, listen to understand. You will gain far more insight into your speaker, by letting them talk. Hear what words they choose and how they say those words. Active listening takes effort, but you learn far more about what’s said when you are engaged and hearing the other person.
So, you’re probably thinking, but I’m on the phone, and can’t “see” my speaker. But you can! Listen for inflection, tone, and the speed of the speaker’s speech. Usually, someone upset or in “fight mode” will speak quickly and emotionally. Someone calm and measured in their speech is under control of their emotions. When you are at work, even remotely, you can listen and pick up ques in the person’s speech.
A rational speaker is usually easier to understand motive, even over a phone call. Body language goes beyond “seeing” the speaker but again actively listening to “how” the speaker is engaging with you.
Responding After Listening
You are now asking, so when DO I need to respond? If you have an upset friend and listening to them about a bad experience, sometimes never. No response is a response in this type of situation. As humans, we want to solve problems, but sometimes it’s best to just listen. Listening with an open mind and heart to fully understand the other person takes a lot of effort.
And sometimes you might never understand the person’s motives or true feelings, but you were there for them. Sometimes just being a friend and confidante is all that is needed in the moment, and active listening is key.
Practice makes permanent, so try just listening for a change. Don’t interrupt and truly listen to the other person on the phone, on Zoom, or sitting with you. The more you practice actively listening, reading body language, and understanding your listener the better you become.
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