We want to be able to listen so others feel heard and understood. Being a good listener is a skill we can practice and improve.
Here is a list of what not to do...
Have you ever been pouring your heart out to someone, sharing a painful experience and (if they let you finish your story) they immediately tell you a story about when they had a similar experience, except that it was much worse in every way?
“I know just how you feel! Just the other day the same thing happened to me but…”
“You think that’s bad? Let me tell you what happened to me!”
The listener offers advice, suggestions and solutions to help fix the speaker’s problem without actually allowing them to fully express themselves and be heard.
“If you tried…”
“What if you…”
“I know what you can do!”
3. Offering An Opinion
Sometimes we offer a personal opinion about what the person is talking about, without being asked for it.
“You were so right/wrong to do/say that…”
“He is such a nuisance!”
“I never liked her anyway.”
The listener is so busy thinking of their own reply that they are no longer focusing attention on the person speaking. You can see it in their distracted eyes and body language while you are talking!
5. Offering Sympathy Instead Of Empathy
When we show pity or feel sorry for someone, we are sympathising with them. Empathy allows us to be present with them, acknowledging their experience without taking on any of their feelings.
“Oh you poor thing!”
“I’m so sorry for you!”
6. Judging, Blaming or Criticising
The listener evaluates what the speaker is saying, whether it’s right or wrong and good or bad.
“You never should have…”
“You could have…”
“You shouldn’t have…”
The listener takes what is being said personally and often gets defensive. They focus on their own needs, rather than on the needs of the speaker.
“Well, if I had known…I would have...”
“I didn't realise that…”
We may mean well, but papering over someone’s feelings with superficial positivity leaves a speaker feeling dismissed and unacknowledged, as if their feelings are not valid or important.
“Everything will be fine, you’ll see.”
“There’s no need to feel/react that way.”
“You shouldn’t feel like that.”
9. Changing The Subject
The listener latches on to something the speaker said and goes off on a tangent talking about that.
“Speaking of which…”
“Now that you mention…”
10. Playing Devil’s Advocate
You may think you are being helpful but often when you play devil’s advocate, the listener feels like they have not been heard. It is hard to empathise or see things from another’s perspective before we feel that we have been heard.
“Have you thought about it from their perspective?”
“I imagine he/she did that because…”
When any of these blocks to listening are present, it leads to misunderstandings, conflict and disconnection.
But don’t despair, next week, we will share 5 Ways to Be A Great Listener!