Listen to me. Do you find yourself saying that often?
Speak up: I want to hear you. Are you listening? Did you really hear every word? Pause. Reverse. Rewind. Re-listen. We are saying the same thing in a different way. Way to miscommunicate.
Are you listening to me?
Listen. How’s the weather, Christine?
This is a phrase a family member repeats over and over again when he thinks I am not listening.
Admittedly, I hear this question a lot. I need to direct my absolute attention to someone to actively listen.
The weather is the go-to priming word that snaps me back, reminding me I need to pay attention.
Popular excuses for not listening between close-knit people
- I memorized everything about you, I know what you are going to say before you speak.
- Thinking people sound like a broken record or that you are a mind reader.
- You don’t care what they say, you only care about your response or point.
- You’re not in the mood to argue, so you block out confrontational conversations.
As a result of ignoring others’ messages, you either shout or laugh to divert the attention away from what you misheard.
Returning to your point. Further, recycling the vicious cycle of misunderstanding.
The problem with these excuses is that we often overestimate our ability to mind read. Mistakingly, thinking we belong in the X-Men.
Although we can understand people’s facial expressions we know well, we can’t possibly read their minds (unless you are a twin maybe).
Although sadly my twin cousins can confirm they do not read each other’s minds or feel each other’s pain.
Notably, I remember a best friend who always thought she knew what I was thinking, yet always misread all my reactions.
Sometimes I would laugh in my head, then correct her. Even after correcting her, she would insist she knows what I am thinking.
Relatedly, I remember thinking maybe she never listened to me. Only to realize that I do the same to people I feel I have a strong connection with.
In the end, I am stuck wondering how many situations did I misread? Probably more than I can list here.
What is active listening and why do we need it in our life?
Are you sick of always getting glued to sticky situations?
Misunderstandings can be your middle name if you are not listening. Or more likely, muting people in your mind as they speak.
I imagine people look funny to you when words come out of their mouth yet without a sound. Not so cute when a fight breaks out with someone you love though.
Psst, here’s where active listening comes in. We got this. Anybody can actively listen.
Active listening was originally pegged as a set of verbal and nonverbal skills essential for parent-child communication.
Today, it is also understood in counseling as a way to demonstrate unbiased reflections and unconditional acceptance.
In summary: give your full attention without passing judgement.
Be attuned to others’ facial expressions, movements, and how you respond also.
Naturally, there are variations in understandings of active listening. However, there are 3 main goals commonly reiterated 👇🏼.
3 tips for active listening
- Communicate via non-verbal involvement and immediacy. In other words, look people in the eye. Smile. Encourage them with your posture and your attention. Not just your words. You are involved and giving your undivided attention.
- Provide feedback or paraphrase words. Slowly, summarize key points in a person’s speech or echo similar words back. You can do this by restating the person’s emotions.
- Ask questions, so the speaker can dig in and elaborate. Make it easy to go into open-ended answers. Saying things like, How did that make you feel?
The key objective of active listening is to understand the speaker’s message without judging.
Phrases to avoid when actively listening
The antithesis of active listening is judgment.
Judgment. Delete the sentiment when you are actively listening.
Likewise, avoid questions starting with “Why”.
If someone asks you why did you do that, naturally, you get defensive. I know I do.
Don’t make it about you. If they ask for advice give it. Otherwise, just listen.
Or you can ask, do you mind if we try to think of a solution together?
Also, don’t pry. If someone does not want to say something, don’t force it out of them. They are not ready.
The goal is to confirm and validate their feelings, not necessarily agree with them.
Most of these tips are applied in counseling however they help in serious conversations also since you are providing loved ones with a safe space.
A friend who you have no idea what they are talking about
Do you have a friend who you have known for years but you actually don’t understand each other at all?
In some ways, it parallels sitting in a classroom passively listening to a subject. Yes, you hear the words above.
However, you never understand the jokes or sayings. This happens to me especially when I find a language barrier. It gets harder to listen.
That’s where following active listening helps.
Who are you going to listen to today?
Hey, thank you for listening to me today, or technically for reading my words on the screen. You used your eyes to listen to me.
See, listening is not always about a physical conversation. It can be in the notes left behind, texts, and behavior.
In the end, active listening is quite simple when we strip it down to the basics.
We all want to feel validated and accepted when we speak. Yes, we want to be heard.
Imagine what you wish people would do when you are baring your soul. Likely, the speaker likes the same treatment too.
Although it is difficult to always watch out for all that since we are not all experts in body language.
Effectively, it is not our job to decode everything since we are not detectives. Instead, when you are confused you can simply ask and listen to the answer.
Hidden messages and innuendos are a waste of time.
Usually, people tell us about how they feel. But the nasty habit of selective listening can be difficult to kick.
Realistically, we cannot all listen to everyone all the time. So, save your energy for your nearest and dearest.
Be honest when you are not listening, say, I am distracted now.
I don’t think I can give this conversation the attention it deserves. Let’s talk about it again.
Just the fact you are reading this shows that you care about people who speak to you.
Hence, you already did the hardest part, the part you cannot teach, which is caring.
So, thank you again for caring. The people in your life are lucky 🙂
Do you prefer speaking or listening?