Listening well to others is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. It lets them know that they matter and their life experience is valid and meaningful.
Last week, I wrote about 10 Blocks To Listening. Did you recognise any of those behaviours in yourself? I sure did! The good news is that listening is a skill that we can practice and get better at.
Here are 5 tips to help you be a great listener.
1. Hold Space for the Other Person
Allow the person to fully express themselves without fear of judgment or being rushed. Imagine you are sitting with the person talking and you’re holding a basket between you both.
As they speak, their words and emotions fall into the basket. Your job is to hold the basket for them. They can relax and trust that it is a safe container to hold all that they are saying. You are giving them the time and space to fill it as they need to. (And, if you are an empath yourself, you don’t need to take on the feelings of the other person - they go in the basket!)
2. Reflect Back What You Hear
Paraphrase what you have heard them saying, without adding in any judgment or opinions. This encourages the speaker as it shows that you are truly paying attention and it gives them an opportunity to reflect on what they’ve said.
It may feel a bit awkward at first, but try it, you will be amazed at how well it works!
3. Look Beneath The Words
While you are listening to what the person is saying, try to uncover the needs and feelings that lie beneath their words and body language. Strong negative feelings are usually the result of unmet needs in someone’s life. When we can name a feeling, it becomes easier to recognise the need behind it.
For example, a friend might be complaining that her husband works long hours and then just sits and watches TV when he’s home. Perhaps she is feeling lonely and disconnected from him and needs to know that he loves her and wants to spend time with her.
Once you have sensed the deeper feelings and needs of the person, you can respond by saying “It sounds like you are feeling/needing/wanting…” or ask “Are you needing...?”
Remember, this is not about you being right or smart, it’s about ensuring that the person feels understood, not just heard.
In the example above, you could say to your friend: “It sounds like perhaps you are feeling lonely and needing some quality time with your husband?” If that’s not what she was meaning, give her the opportunity to keep talking to express herself. Perhaps she isn’t feeling lonely, but rather resentful that her husband doesn’t help more with the children!
5. Listen Until They Have Finished Speaking
Wait for the flow of words to stop. When a person has fully expressed themselves, you will sense a release of tension in them. You can often see this visually - they sigh, their shoulders drop and their body relaxes.
Ask if there is anything more they want to say. This shows that you are not rushing them or trying to offer a quick-fix solution to their problem.
Let me know if you try any of these techniques when you are listening - even if you just start with one I know it will make a positive difference!