September 30, 2008
How well do you listen to the people around you? For many of us, myself included, listening can be challenging at times. We’re often busy, focused on ourselves and what we want to say, evaluating the person speaking and what they’re saying, distracted with all the other things we think we “should” be doing instead of listening to them, and more. With this and others things getting in our way, it’s amazing that we ever hear anything that anyone says at all.
However, listening is not only the most important aspect of communication – it can make or break our relationships. Our ability to appreciate, respond to, and empower others is based on our ability to listen to them in an empowering and open way.
There are three levels of listening and some important things we can do to become more effective in our ability to listen to others:
- Be Present – Give the person your full attention (stop typing, watching TV, or doing anything else). Multi-tasking doesn’t work when you’re listening to others. When we’re present, we’re able to actually hear what they’re saying, get the information, and pay attention to them in a way that has them feel acknowledged and important.
- Make an Emotional Connection – Once we’re present and actually hear what they’re saying, we have the ability to listen between the words. This allows us to hear and feel what they truly mean, understand where they’re coming from, and know what they want. When we connect with the person emotionally, it’s much easier to resolve a conflict, understand them, or figure out how to support them.
- Listen in an Empowering Way – Pay attention to the opinion you have about the person or what they’re saying. If your opinion is empowering (i.e. positive), great. If not, see if you can “upgrade” it (i.e. find the good stuff). This is not about agreeing with or liking everyone, it’s about taking responsibility for our judgments and realizing that our opinions color what we hear and how we hear it. It’s difficult to have an empowering or positive conversation with someone whom we judge in a negative way. It may take some work on our part to find the good stuff or work through our issues with the person, but if we’re committed to having healthy communications and relationships, identifying our judgments and doing whatever we can to move through them will allow us to listen to others in an empowering way.
When we’re able to do the internal work it takes to become a better listener (slow down, pay attention, be present, connect with people, be honest, let go of our self righteous judgments, and more) we can enhance our relationships in a profound way.
With the rushed and judgmental nature of life, business, and culture today, being someone who has the ability to really listen to others is such a vital skill and such a blessing to all of those around you. It’s not always easy, it takes some practice and humility, and is an on-going, moment-by-moment phenomenon. However, listening to others can allow for so many positive things:
- Improved communication
- Resolved conflicts
- Deeper connection
- Greater appreciation
- Enhanced understanding
- Increased learning
- Profound awareness
Have fun with it as you practice. See if you can put some attention today and the rest of this week on taking time to really listen to the people around you. I bet they will love it and you’ll be amazed at what happens.