Listen to Me! – 7 Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills
Lately, I have found myself suffering from an impaired sense of listening. No, not bad hearing – bad listening. I am reminding myself of all those things that make for bad listening habits and how to fix them. How well do you listen?
There are many benefits to listening well
We can actually understand what people are feeling. People share their emotions and often their hidden fears through their words. Understanding these things are so important for us to help us see what others are experiencing in their lives right at that moment.
We strengthen relationships. Truly listening makes a powerful difference to communication which is the heart of all relationships. To have strong and resilient relationships we need strong listening skills.
We can offer appropriate feedback and response. Far too often we are guilty of hearing what is not being said and responding to that! When we actually hear what is said, our response is relevant and appropriate to the situation.
We make people feel valued and important. Taking the time and effort to listen tells the other person that they matter. Giving someone undivided attention is a powerful way to communicate that you care.
We share the love of Jesus. Jesus was wonderfully understanding. He heard the heart of people as they shared with them and showed them compassion. His listening skills allowed him to give them what they truly needed at the perfect time.
When we don’t listen well
We hurt relationships. Not listening means not communicating means damaging the relationship.
We respond inappropriately. Far too often we answer a question that was not asked and assume we are helping when we are just alienating the other person.
People stop talking to us. This is damaging on many levels. It hurts us, it hurts them. It greatly erodes any positive influence we might have in their lives.
What causes poor listening?
There are truly things that are happening in our minds that cause poor listening. Your brain works a lot faster than someone can talk. But if we don’t control our thinking our listening is impaired. Here are some common causes.
An active internal dialogue. How often do your find yourself formulated a response before the other person finishes talking? We aren’t willing to listen because we are thinking about what we want to say instead. We totally miss all that the other person has to say, so we miss when we actually do respond.
The condition of our own heart. When we are damaged, we cannot listen right. If we have a negative attitude, we will view everything we hear from a negative perspective. Simple observations can sound negative or critical to us because of how we are!
Our own values and judgments. Our experience forms our values and judgments. We carry those things wherever we go. They strongly influence how we hear the things we hear when in conversation.
How do we listen well?
Listening well is a skill everyone needs to master. It is possible to work at and improve your listening skills. Here are some tips to become a better listener.
Listen to each word. Make sure you hear every word being spoken. Allow the other person to completely finish talking before you even think to formulate a response.
Look at the person talking to you. If you eyes drift, your thoughts drift, too. Whenever you can, engage the person talking with your eyes as well as your ears.
Focus on the other person. When you’re listening to what the other person is saying, you are really listening to the other person. Keep your focus on them. Seek to understand them. Try to hear their heart.
Turn off your judgments. This is difficult since we carry around our values and, therefore, our judgments all the time. Do your best to hear only what is being said and not to interpret them into the context of what you believe and value.
Don’t ‘read into’ the conversation. Don’t read between the lines! Sometimes what people say is really what they mean and how they feel. If there is something more behind what they say, you can find out later.
Ask the occasional question for clarification. Here is where you can find out if there is something more behind what they say. Don’t ask tons of questions. That can become irritating but ask enough to make sure you know what they are truly saying.
Don’t rehearse your response. Once you are clear on what they are saying, carefully and sensitively respond.
Listening well requires commitment, practice and time but the reward is greatly improved relationships at all levels! Today, start with at least one of the recommendations on listening better and start to practice it. Add another each day until you can comfortably and naturally do them in every conversation.
And if you need help hearing the voice of God, you can find help for that too! And, if this has helped you, please pass it along to others!