Active listening. We are bombarded with so many conversations coming at us from multiple angles. In person, on the phone, through chat rooms, often with a radio or the television going on in the background. No wonder why the mind struggles to retain everything that is said, and if we aren’t able to catch the whole crux of what is said, we can certainly become frustrated when we should really ask for clarification.
In the car on the way to dropping my daughter off before bowling tonight, I asked a simple question that elicited a very negative response. “Do you want to come to a certain city?” immediately became a crying fest, because she thought she had no choice in the matter. I asked her if she heard what I said. She stated that I told her she was going with me bowling. The one word- bowling- threw her head into a tizzy. It didn’t matter that I asked a question that required her to process, think about and give a response to.
She immediately went for the negative, which then took me a few minutes to get her back into a neutral frame of mind.
How many times have you misinterpreted what a person said or asked of you? I remember a specific Jim Rohn audio program where he mentions the different responses you may get from someone if you subtle changed just one word- “What’s troubling you?” versus the impact of “What’s wrong with you?”. The first question appears to be more open and inviting, while the second question delivers an attack on a person’s character.
Think about how often in life you are willing to tune everything else out around you to maintain 100% focus on the listener in front of you or on the phone. Imagine how much more satisfying those relationships would be as you would be able to show how much you care because of the commitment to learning, sharing and growing. I’m sure we all enjoy talking about ourselves from time to time- but you would be amazed how many other things you can learn about life through listening.
I’ve become better as a person through observation and conversation. When I get to know a new person for the first time, I’m not afraid to ask them questions about their life, their hobbies, their relationships, their likes and dislikes- and I’m willing to sit back, listen, clarify and ask additional follow up questions. If unsure, it’s ok to paraphrase and summarize to make sure you heard the other person correctly.
So next time you want to improve your listening, study others who you believe are great listeners. Observe how they are around others- the eye contact they make, the leaning in to make sure the listener is being heard, the spacing between the participants, etc. It’s a skill that pays big dividends in the business world and I believe will improve your relationships within your friends and family.
Have a wonderful day, be kind to yourself and others, and be sure to catch other people in your world doing something good.