The Importance of Knowing How to Be a Good Listener
It's clear that listening is not a passive action. To be a good listener we shouldn't try to be the focus of attention when a person's telling us something.
Listening is not easy. Sometimes we believe that we’re already a good listener just by hearing the words coming out another person’s mouth.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s look at an example. Imagine two friends, and one of them is telling the other that they had an argument with their mother yesterday.
The first friend is understandably worried while he’s telling the story. However, as soon as he finishes speaking, the other friend takes the opportunity to recount a similar experience of their own.
Was the second friend really being a good listener? No, because the second friend has used their concern to introduce their own experience and has thus moved from listening to being heard.
The truth is, the second friend really didn’t listen to her friend.
Mistakes we make when listening to others
You may be doubting all this information. You may even think that you are a good listener and that this article doesn’t apply to you.
And so, that is why we want to mention the most frequent mistakes we make when we “listen” to others.
The first one is the example we mentioned above. Someone tells us an experience that worries us and we use this to talk about ourselves.
In the second case, which is perhaps more drastic, the second friend would change the subject quickly. Let’s take for instance the same situation of our friend telling us about the argument he had with his mother.
However, in this case, instead of responding with our experience, we change the subject by saying “Well sorry, anyways, how was work yesterday?”
In the third case, the person who “listens” trivializes the importance of the issue. Some common phrases like “don’t worry,” “it’s just nonsense,” or ” it will be over soon” are the example of this situation.
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Finally, the fourth mistake is telling the other person what to do. Thereby giving advice and solutions that they may not be able to achieve.
As you may have noticed, in all these cases the other person hasn’t really been heard, but we use what they say to talk about ourselves.
Avoiding other people’s concerns
We may think that we’re good listeners but, in fact, we just want to speak about ourselves. The truth is that being a good listener is a process. A process that requires attention, addressing the other person’s concerns and not interrupting the other person by mentioning our personal issues.
Even when we tell each other what to do, we’re drawing attention to the way we see things.
It’s true that you can give your point of view, but you shouldn’t tell people how to act or what to say because you’re not in their situation. If you do this, you’re just trying to make yourself present through the other person.
When you listen poorly to someone, you somehow want to stand out and your own ego makes an appearance. Although it sounds difficult to accept, when we listen badly we avoid the other’s concerns.
How to be a good listener
Now that we’ve pinpointed the mistakes we make when “listening”, it’s important that we learn to listen again. That is why it is fundamental to follow the tips that we’ll present below:
- Never give solutions: As we’ve already mentioned, you shouldn’t provide solutions to the other person’s problems or tell them how to act. However, we can ask the other person questions that invite them to reflect on their problems and make decisions. This is a good way to listen.
- Dig deeper into the topic: If you’re really listening, ask questions that show your interest in knowing more about what the other person has been telling you. Questions such as “what do you think about it?” and “what are you going to do?” are just a small sample of things you can ask.
- Avoid talking about yourself: Focus only on the other person, what they’re telling you and avoid talking about yourself unless the other person directly asks you about a similar situation that you have experienced.
- Don’t underestimate the situation: Although the situation may seem trivial to you, it’s important to the person who is telling you about, so never try to trivialize it.
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Now you know how to truly listen in an honest way, without thinking about yourself, but about what the other person is telling you.
We have to get rid of the idea that listening is a passive action because it’s very active. That’s why it’s necessary to teach ourselves how to listen.