I came across a quote from this article today and couldn’t help but share it in its entirety. It’s just too good, too spot-on, and too exactly-what-I-wanted-to-say-but-way-more-eloquent. Here’s the quote:
Listening isn’t the same as hearing someone speak. And it’s not as natural or automatic as many people think.
In fact, most of us make mistakes when listening to others. For instance, we might be more concerned with being heard and voicing our own perspective, according to Mudita Rastogi, Ph.D, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Illinois.
“Often, people come to the conversation with an agenda… When they think they are listening, they are only waiting to get their point across.”
I remember in elementary school, we did “active listening” exercises, where we’d listen to our partner talk about something and would inject “active listening” characteristics, like nodding your head understandingly or looking your partner in the eyes. The older I get, the more I realize that while looking at someone might make it seem like you’re actively listening (and may even fool yourself into thinking you are, too), often people are only half-listening or waiting for their turn to speak. It’s difficult to build strong relationships with people when we’re not fully taking in the things they share with us.
Whether in your relationships with friends, partners, or family, I challenge you to be a better listener.
Here are a few tips to becoming a great listener and conversationalist:
- Calm the heck down. You’re not having a debate with someone — you’re having a conversation. You might have some things you’d like to say, but what’s the rush? Be cool, yo. Listen to what your buddy has to say and let your dialogue form organically. There’s enough time for everyone to say their piece.
- Ask questions. This one’s most important in my book, because aside from all the head nodding and eye contact, no one will know you’re listening unless you actually engage with what they’re saying. And don’t we all feel good when someone seems interested in our stories? Asking questions shows your partner that you’re hearing them and that you care. It also ensures that you’re not making assumptions about what they’re saying — clarifying as needed.
- Consider your breathing. I’ve noticed that if there’s something I really want to say in a conversation, my heart rate will increase — I will literally feel slight physical stress about the fact that I might not be able to get my point in before someone else starts speaking. Isn’t that wild? That we can cause ourselves stress over something so minute? If you’re in a fast-paced conversation and worried that you might not be able to inject your perspective quickly enough, then just take a chill pill, my friend. Breathe. Lower that heart rate. It’s going to be ok.