The ability to listen is a skill we take for granted. Indeed, we need no training in something so basic. But we do. It’s a talent that needs to be worked upon and one that, in our busy and impatient world, is often overlooked. We are inclined to regard it as a passive process, the same as hearing. But it shouldn’t be so. Being able to listen actively and empathically is vital if we are to succeed in the resolution of interpersonal difficulties or help others find solutions to problems .
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We have all the met bad listeners. There are the people who are so busy thinking about how they will respond when you have finished that they don’t pay attention to what you are saying at all. And there are those awful individuals who like to demonstrate how tuned in to you they are by supplying the endings of your words and sentences. But for all that these types are a universal source of irritation, there is a bit of them in most of us. We mentally rush ahead, analysing what is being said, making judgements and assumptions, interrupting with our own thoughts and experiences.
How to develop Good Listening Skills
Give people time
It is a rare individual who can accurately and cogently articulate his or her thoughts at the first take. And when the subject matter is to do with interpersonal difficulties or deeply felt problems it is especially hard. people need time to get their thoughts together. Listeners who jump in too quickly deny him that opportunity. Don’t be afraid of silences – too often we leap to fill them and cut off a valuable train of thought in the process.
suspend judgement while you are listening :
At this stage it is unimportant whether you agree or disagree with what is being said. Signalling disagreement, for example, may lead to the speaker taking up a defensive position, which they will subsequently find it difficult to step away from. It’s by no means easy to suspend judgement, especially if you have approached the discussion with strong views of your own. But work at it. It is important.
Reflect back :
When the other person finished making his or her point, summarise what you think has been said. This allows you to confirm the accuracy of your understanding, and also gives the other person the opportunity to correct anything not expressed accurately first time around. In reflecting back, it is important again to exclude judgements or assumptions of your own about what the person has said.
If there are points of vagueness or uncertainty, encourage clarification by asking questions. Open questions – those that cannot receive a yes / no answer – are most appropriate when you want to draw out further information without injecting your own assumptions or closing the discussion down on to one option. So rather than asking ‘Do you want me to give you additional time with this project?’ (closed question), ask ‘What can I do that will enable you to complete this project?’ (open question). Closed question may be appropriate as follow-ups when you are narrowing down options.
What if you are dealing with difference of opinion? ‘surely’, you may say, ‘I don’t have to sit and listen to everything the other person has to say without indicating my own opinion or my disagreement at any stage.’ Yes, you do, at least if you want to resolve the problem successfully. If you can demonstrate that you are able to listen, really listen, while the other person articulates his / her perception of the truth, and that you are prepared to do so without anger or judgement, you have much greater chance of reaching an amicable solution. Of course, the other person must respect your right to be heard in the same way. There is a much greater chance of that happening if you have clearly set out the ground rules for the discussion in advance and stuck by them. Your introduction might be along the lines of ‘I am going to listen to what you have to say as carefully as I can, and make sure that I understand your point of view. I hope that will then do the same thing for me.