Thursday, October 14, 2010

Say Whaaat?!? Lessons in Listening

"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, 
but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant"
-Robert McCloskey

I'm more of a talker than a listener.
After many years of my mother's nagging me ("Practice Piano! Do your homework!  Get off the phone!"),  and teachers talking about things I was not interested in, I became an expert at learning how to tune things out.
However, I do think that I've become a pretty good listener when it comes to listening to what other people have to say~ (I may not be able to keep my own secrets but I'm very good at keeping others!)

It's never good to talk to someone that isn't actually listening to what you're saying or is only interested in telling you their opinions.
If you're not a good listener, here are some tips from Michael P. Nichols, a professor of Psychology at the College of William and Mary and author of the The Lost Art of Listening.

Most people think they are good listeners, but the truth is that many of us are better at telling our own story than listening to someone else's.  When the effort is sincere, however, listening can be even more rewarding than talking.

Maintain Focus:  
Being a good listener means first making it clear to another person that you truly want to hear what she has to say.  I don't believe in rigid rules about not interrupting or the importance of eye contact, but your focus should clearly be on them-
no multitasking. 

Bite Your Tongue:  
If you are in listening mode, resist the temptation to argue or even offer your own opinion.  A debate- when one person expresses herself, then you reply with a string of your own opinions- is usually unsatisfying.  No one feels that they've really been understood.
Even if you have something relevant to add, it's better to give up your own agenda and let this be all about the other person.  If you sense they want your feedback, ask questions or offer a similar experience of your own.  But remember that the goal should be to draw them out, not shift the focus to yourself.

Repeat and Expound:
The biggest mistake people make is not acknowledging what the other person has said.  Before the conversation moves on to a new topic, make it clear that you know what your friend's point was.  Try something like, "That's interesting.  Can you tell me more?"
People feel listened to and understood when they are prompted specifically and when you ask for details.

Listen Here:

It sounds counter-intuitive, but the idea that you can be a good listener all the time is self-defeating.  Some conversations are just not worth the effort.  If you want to listen well, choose the discussions that really do matter, and focus on them.  
People will know that when it's important, you'll take the time and make the effort to be attentive.

"To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well"
-John Marshall

*~ Have a Beautiful Day! ~*

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