We all know that listening is a key element of effective communication and we know that all of us want to be heard and understood by those we relate to. But listening is so much more than sitting there in silence and let someone talk at you; it’s about having the intention to understand and learn about what that other person is saying.
You know that already? Yeah but it’s not that easy to DO. Think of how many times we sit quietly waiting for our turn or we might be busy trying to formulate a reply, or think of the perfect way to fix the other person’s problem, or even sit there thinking about how WE feel about what they said. But listening, like all other areas of communication is not passive, it’s active.
Most of all, conscious communication asks us to set aside our own interpretations and opinions and send our full attention and focus towards that other person. That way, we can also ask questions and clarify without making assumptions about how that person feels and without taking what they share personally.
Having the intention to learn and understand what the other person feels doesn’t mean you have to agree with it, or forget about your own thoughts and opinions, but first you must understand how they are really feeling from inside THEIR experience. Even if what they’re saying is making you feel uncomfortable, even if they seem upset, or you feel tempted to interrupt them to change their mind or fix them – the less you make listening about YOU and the more you make it about understanding THEM the more detached, calm and constructive you can be in your active listening.
This is especially important if someone is upset or has intense feelings to communicate. Many of us instinctively want to protect ourselves (especially if we feel “blamed” or freaked out by any strong emotions the other person is experiencing) or we want to fix the problem and make the messy scary feelings (and conversation) just go away. None of that really works though. The best tactic you can take is often to just truly LISTEN as all the thoughts and feelings emerge. It’s not your job to fix the problem, defend yourself, or settle the other person down, get them to change their thoughts or make them feel better. Your job might just be simply to understand.
Think of communication like any other energy – it has to go somewhere, it has to flow, sometimes it even has to bubble up or explode. Listening helps you deal with the energy of others in a constructive way rather than absorbing it as your own or trying to block it from coming out.
Have a wonderful Weekend!!