“We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – First Nations Wisdom
When given the opportunity, and a captive audience, many of us like to talk about ourselves. But there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s pretty normal. And one key component of any good relationship is being able to share about ourselves verbally, and another is feeling as though that sharing is being heard.
The thing is, however, as much as we enjoy having someone make us feel as though they care about what we’re saying, it goes the other way too. And frequently we forget that as important as we think the things coming out of our mouths are, most other people feel the same way about what they have to say.
It’s important to remember we ALL want to feel heard.
It was just the other day when at a post wedding beach picnic that I met a woman who really made me think about this more deeply. This woman was so lovely and gracious in her conversation skills. She began by asking me questions about how I knew the host and continued to engage me by asking me to elaborate more and share some detailed stories about the hostess and I.
She didn’t interrupt. Not once.
She didn’t take over the conversation by talking about herself. She didn’t look around and get distracted by other things happening around us. This charming woman just listened intently and this made feel particularly valued and important.
After taking a second to reflect on what exactly I was experiencing in that moment, I realized that I too wanted to try and make her feel as good as she was making me feel.
Not surprisingly, as much as I lit up when speaking about my experiences, she too became quite enthusiastic and animated when speaking about hers! But of course. We all like it when people make us feel as though we matter.
THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JUST LISTENING AND LISTENING WELL.
Really being present and actually hearing what someone is saying is different than just listening. And although it’s not always easy, learning to become a good listener will have a significant and very positive impact on your relationships.
When it comes to how most of us listen, we are often semi-distracted by our own thoughts about what WE want to say in response. But if our minds are being occupied by thinking about what we’d like to say (while the other person is still speaking) can we really be hearing them? Or we allow ourselves to get distracted by other things happening around us. Or we interrupt and just start talking about ourselves. None of which are all that conducive to really good listening.
Being fully present while listening means focusing all of our attention on the person who is talking – it’s about just listening, and that’s all. Try it. It sounds easy, but it’s actually not. And it often takes quite a lot of practice and intention to become good at it.
Of course this kind of intent listening is not suitable for every situation, but doing it when it is appropriate can go quite far with people. Think about it this way – when you’re talking and the person who is listening is really focused on you and only you, how does their genuine interest make you feel?
Julia Kristina is a CBT and Positive Psychology therapist who runs a vibrant clinical counselling practice in Vancouver, BC. She is also a speaker, workshop facilitator, blogger, and recovered ‘Friends’ junkie. In her spare time she likes to power walk, power talk, and power drill. You can read and see more from Julia Kristina on her Good For Me Blog: http://juliakristina.com/blog You can also connect with Julia Kristina Counselling on Facebook and Twitter