No, really, ask yourself. Are you honestly a good listener?
I’ll be honest and say that I’m not. BUT. I am making an effort to change that. I’ve already seen a difference in the conversations I have with my friends and family, and even random people who decide to share things with me.
Someone quipped, “God gave us two ears and one mouth because we need to listen twice as much as we talk.” Learning that means being “quick to listen, slow to speak.” Good listening builds relationships. But good listeners aren’t born, they’re bred! So here are a few suggestions to improve your listening:
- Listen without interrupting: Resist the temptation to jump in and finish the sentence, or hijack the floor. Rein yourself in – just listen.
- Listen to understand: Try to understand their point of view, feelings, thinking and needs. Good listening is hearing what they actually think, mean or feel, not what you imagine they do. Instead of guessing, ask, “Am I understanding you correctly? Do you mean…? Are you feeling…?” In other words, don’t assume – verify.
- Listen without judging: Don’t rush to conclusions. If what they say doesn’t quite add up, keep listening. “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13). When you hear more, it may make sense.
- Listen without correcting, countering or devaluing: Saying, “That’s not the way it was,” or “What did you expect? If you hadn’t…” or, “You’re just being too sensitive,” (in other words, getting defensive, straight up attacking or “flipping the script” before letting the person finish), puts people on guard and stops real communication. We know this to be true, as we’ve all experienced it. How many times has this happened and you just started to shut down because you couldn’t even get what you had to say out before the other person or people jutted in? It doesn’t make anyone feel good, and it can incite anger.
- Validate the speaker: Accept their perceptions and feelings as valid expressions of a valued person. “If I understand you correctly, you’re thinking…feeling…Am I right?” Ask them to help get you on the same page with them. Everyone understands things and thinks differently, so you have to be aware of that. “Given what you’ve told me, I can see why you’d feel what you feel,” is very validating and will increase their confidence and willingness to consider the solutions you may offer.
– From: The Word for you Today: A Gift for You (with some personal bits from yours truly added in)