The Art of Listening
Everyone has a story to tell. However, not everyone may be willing to listen. Sometimes, we are amazed - in an unpleasant way – over the fact that we have not been paying attention to the one speaking to us. At some point along the story, our mind has wandered off, and we only drift back to reality when suddenly asked, “Are you still listening?”
That would be most unfortunate, since next to our visual skills, our ability to listen allows us to reap various benefits. If we listen to our mentor as he shares with us useful thoughts on life, we become good apprentices. If we listen to our professor as he lectures about the day’s lesson, we become good students. If we listen to our boss as he explains the rationale of the company’s recent policy, we become good employees. If we listen to our parents as they advise us regarding career choices, we become good sons/daughters. If we listen to a friend in dire need of unloading his troubles, we become good friends.
In short, listening is vital in developing good human relationships.
To maximize our listening capability, here are a few tips.
Focus. It is but a single word, but its message conveys far more. Being focused means paying attention, and a lot of it at that. It means temporarily forgetting about other matters of consequence and lending a few minutes of your time to hear someone speak his mind out. It means giving interest to whatever it is that the speaker might want to say. It is taking his words seriously into consideration in whatever decision we are to make. It is placing his story in the context of his emotions, and trying to understand him within the events occurring in his life.
Watch out for non-verbal cues. The message need not always lie on the words, but also in movements that the speaker makes. If we also pay good attention to the speaker’s eyes, facial expressions, and gestures, we will be able to receive the message in totality. Moreover, if the speaker realizes that we are sincerely listening, we are boosting his confidence.
Be sensitive. A good measure of sensitivity is also essential to maintain enthusiasm in the part of the person speaking. If the person is at the peak of his emotions, do not interrupt. After all, if someone is extremely angry or anguished, it will be a form of catharsis to remain patient until he has calmed down. Unless the person is already causing bodily harm, it will do him well to let him be purged of his bad feelings.
Show unconditional openness. We may not always agree with what someone has to say, but being there to listen may be the least we can offer. While we may have different opinions about several issues, keeping our horizons wide is a healthy attitude. With these perspectives in listening, we become open to a world of unlimited learning and diverse experiences.