A majority of relationships can be improved by effective and compassionate listing during conversations. Often people are more interested in waiting for their turn to talk and thinking about what they are going to say rather than actually listening to another person. It’s pretty much programmed into our DNA to be a little egocentric, so you’ll have to work at being an active listener.
Celeste Headlee gave a TED Talk about having better conversations, later summarized in the Carl Kruse Blog. I’ve taken a few of her points, as well as Carl’s into consideration when coming up with these three essential listening tips.
#1. Be Fully Present In The Moment
Time is something they aren’t making more of, so when someone gives you their time, respect that. You can’t listen and multitask at the same time. Put your phone down, stop your work, look the person in the eye, and really listen. People I enjoy talking to the most are the ones that make me feel like speaking with me at that moment is the most important thing they could be doing.
#2. Not Everything Is About You
It’s inevitable; once someone starts telling you a story, your brain immediately starts making connections to things in your own life. It doesn’t make you a bad person; in fact, it’s just the way our brain works. Your mind is continually making personal connections to help you understand things. What you do have control over is keeping these stories to yourself. Resist the urge to repeatedly turn the conversation back to yourself, especially if the conversation is sensitive or important to the other party. If it’s a friendly chat, you’ll have your turn to speak eventually. Meanwhile, listen.
#3. Ask Open-Ended Questions
Instead of launching into your own colorful tales that relate in a roundabout way to the experience they are sharing with you, ask open-ended questions to show you are interested and keep the conversation flowing. Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Instead of, “are you sad,” you could ask, “how do you feel today?” Asking lots of questions about the other person shows you are interested in what they are saying and proves that you’ve been listening and paying attention.
Hopefully, these few tips will improve your conversations and help you become a more active listener. I already see a change in the way I engage with people just from consciously integrating some of this advice, such as LISTEN and IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU. And being a great listener will in turnhelp make all of us more compassionate and improve our relationships.