I'm sure if we were asked, we would all say that we are good listeners but that's not really true.
Most of us will put our hand up to only half listening a lot of the time while our brain is working on something else or we are watching tv.
Most of us regularly do one of the following:
Listen to answer- we think we know what the person is going to say so we are focusing on formulating our answer instead of what is actually being said.
Listening to criticise -we are looking to find fault with what the other person is saying because subconsciously we want to undermine them as that's how we've learned to get our energy and feel powerful in life.
And listening to defend - We have been conditioned to hear comments such as some people or I don't understand how someone as negative comments aimed at us and we become defensive and wrapped up in defending our beliefs and lifestyle to the point where we become unreasonable.
These listening styles mean that we are never truly receiving the whole message and can cause us to misunderstand, overreact or judge others harshly which can strain working and personal relationships.
We can survive perfectly well continuing to listen like this but we are missing a huge part of what is being communicated to us. We are not paying attention to body language and visual clues. We are also not tuned into what is not being said and this can also cause misunderstanding and conflict but maybe more importantly, by not listening for the gaps or picking up on what is missing from the conversation,we can miss things or make the other person feel undervalued. So let's look at what we need to do to understand how to communicate better.
It turns out after a quick google that there are over 20 styles of listening but most of us can greatly improve our lives if we focus on improving 3 main styles of listening.
These are :
Active listening. When we are listening actively, we are giving the person we are engaging with our full attention. When we are giving them our attention, the don't have to fight for our time and energy and this helps them to relax into what they are saying. They become more eloquent and feel less under pressure to rush through what they want to say, we become aware of their body language their eye contact and we pick up on nuances that give us a deeper understanding that we would normally miss.
We want to ensure that we have understood so may paraphrase or ask questions that are open and require a detailed response.
This style of listening promotes stronger relationships as it helps to build a rapport and ultimately trust, open questioning provides an opportunity for the other person to have thinking time and find ways to express themselves authentically.
Critical listening. Working on stopping ourselves from doing this one will help not only the person we are communicating with but also ourselves because we will need to be mindful of our interactions and honest about why we are not supporting this person. Why do we feel the need to find fault and pull them apart.
I can tell you as a coach that it won't be something that they are doing wrong but something within us that needs to be identified, worked on and changed. This will improve our wellbeing and resilience and through empowering conversation with others, our relationships and outcomes. People who are on the receiving end of critical listeners tend to stop sharing their plans and dreams with us and may even begin to avoid us all together. Its also damaging to their self worth and optimism to have to overcome our negative comments and again, once we have become aware of doing this , why would we want to continue?
Lastly I feel that therapeutic listening can greatly improve our relationships, outcomes and, therefore, our lives. Therapeutic listening is done when we allow another reason to share or offload to us without us commenting or trying to problem solve for them. It requires empathy and compassion and may involve non verbal communication such as nodding , eye contact or patting their arm or putting your arm around them with no other intention that to create a safe space and comfort them.
We are not jumping in with our experiences or expecting anything in return we are simply communication, one spiritual being to another and inviting authenticity and openness for us all to grow and thrive in.
To be aware of how we communicate with others we need to pay attention to our interactions and through mindful and honest awareness, see where we can facilitate clearer communication through attentive listening.
As always, if you would like any more information or to start your coaching journey, then please get in touch.