There is opportunity to share your voice to the masses more than ever before in the history of our world. Almost everyone in America has access to a platform where they can connect their voice with an audience through social media and smartphones. But what society is quickly learning is that it’s not enough to just speak. From a baby’s first cry, every human has a desire to be heard. Even with all of modern medicine, proof of life remains in the sound of a heartbeat and our ability to hear it.
Have you ever been talking with someone and then tuned out mid-conversation because what they said spurred a thought? Worse, you were simply not interested anymore? If you’re like me at all, tuning out has created some very awkward moments when you snap back into reality and don’t have a clue of where the conversation is. I’ve often tried to solve problems that didn’t even exist…if only I’d kept my ears open to hear the whole story!
Healthy relationships always involve sharing and listening. So here are three practical tips on how to be the best boss listener in your relationship, friend circle and workplace. People will notice…and your significant other will feel the difference!
Live in the moment
Here’s the bottom line – Your friend may have mentioned a problem just one minute in, but if you tune out now to try to solve the problem in your head, you’re going to miss their whole explanation, their emotions and some crucial facts that will help you build a solution together. You’re actually sending a message that says, “Me having the right answer is more important than you right now!” Staying fully present during a conversation means choosing courage and humility. You might have to pause at the end of their explanation to think of an appropriate response instead of launching in or cutting them off. But in the end, they will feel more heard, valued and loved, because you took the time to not jump to any conclusions.
Take a lesson from Water
Just like a pool of water reflects the nature around it, an easy way to practice active listening is to reflect back to your friend what you thought they said or felt. For example, “I’m hearing you say….insert brief summary” or “I’m wondering if you’re feeling ….insert emotion.” This little tool can save you a boatload of pain and help someone feel valued. I’ve used this tool in the middle of a stressful conversation and quickly realized I had completely misunderstand the other person. If we had just kept talking, we would have most likely ended up in a huge miscommunication. This tool will also help someone feel understood when you correctly reflect what they are trying to say.
Love lifts others higher
This last practical tip is pretty simple – choose to be interested in what someone is saying and choose to care about them. This looks like asking them a question to find out more or giving them a quick encouragement about what they just shared. Actual listening means paying more attention to them and less about yourself in the moment. A fun way to do this is to dare yourself to only reply with a “tell me more” instead of launching into your own story or insight. Or just try asking them some open ended questions to show you care about what they are sharing. Open ended questions aren’t a yes or no response question and usually involve words like – how, what or where.
If you find yourself always needing to have the last word, constantly adding your own expertise, interrupting a lot or taking 80% of the talking time in your conversations…it might be time to pop the question. No..not THAT question…just a question that shows you actually care and are engaged with who they are and what they are saying. You might be surprised what diamonds you find in someone’s life when you stop to listen…