One of the greatest gifts we can give to another person is that of listening. Giving of our time and attention. Our ability to allow another person to be heard is a true gift.
So often in our busy life we are listening “on the go”
Living in a 2-story house with my hubby, Chuck, I have caught myself thinking I was having a conversation with Chuck while I was move through the house doing chores or putting things away. I find I end up “yelling” “What? What?”. Then I remember to go back to where Chuck was, stop, face him and listen.
Of course, stopping our activity, facing the person and giving them our undivided attention is the first step in quality listening. Here are 8 keys to creating a quality listening experience:
- Clear your mind and just hear what the other person is saying. Don’t think about what you are going to say when the other person stops speaking. Just listen to them. Really hear what they have to say. It is ok to allow a pause between when the person finishes speaking and you beginning talking. This gives space to see if the other person has anything more to add. It also gives you time after they finish speaking, to contemplate your reply.
- Listen from a place of complete neutrality. Don’t judge. As a Coach I actual set aside my beliefs and my opinions when I begin a coaching session. My beliefs and opinions are mine and mine alone. My beliefs have no bearing in a coaching session. You can do this too. When you listen from complete neutrality, the other person feels safe and they open up at a deeper level. If you are completely neutral, you may learn things that you never would have learned without being in a place of total non-judgement. Neutrality and non-judgement doesn’t mean you are condoning or agreeing. It simple means you are respecting the right of the other person to have their own point of view.
- Be a vault. I tell my clients I am a vault and I mean it. In other words, I keep everything confidential. Confidentiality is huge in listening. Not only does it build trust, but it deepens your relationship with the other person. Confidentiality is serious business. The listener is trusting you with what could be their most important thoughts and feelings. What may not seem like a confidential issue to you could easily be a something that is making the other person feel extremely vulnerable. So, honoring and keeping their sharing confidential is huge. The only exception to this is if they are going to break the law (rob a bank), harm themselves or harm someone else.
- Ask open ended question to help the other person share and to show that you are truly listening and that you care. Here are some examples:
Tell me more.
How does that make you feel?
What is it about this that is important to you?
What do you want me to know or understand?
What is your concern?
What are you wanting to accomplish?
What result would you like to create?
How can I best support you?
- Stay curious. Think “Hmm … I wonder what they meant by that?” Ask curious open-ended questions that come to mind.
- Listen for the sake of listening not for the opportunity to give advice. This can be tricky. Sometimes people will come to you asking for your opinion or saying: “Tell me what to do”. People say: “Tell me what to do” but often they mean “I am trying to figure this out” There is a saying: “If I tell you, it is a lie. But if you tell it to yourself, then it is the truth”. So never just give advice. Instead say: “Would you like me just to listen or did you want my input?” If they want your input, this is not a signal to open the flood gates of opinion and judgement. If you do, you will undo all the good you accomplished with your listening. Tread lightly. Go slow. Say a little, pause, ask how that makes them feel. Be cautious before continuing. If needed repeat the same process.
- Be careful before deciding to share your similar story. You might even ask first: “Would you like to hear how I dealt with a similar situation?” Never share to one-up someone’s difficulties or good fortune.
- At the end of the conversation, thank the person for trusting you enough to share with you and assure them you will keep their sharing confidential (and then do).
If you follow these tips you will be amazed how people will come to trust you, what others will share with you and you will see on their faces the gift you have given them because they now truly feel heard.
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