Are you a good listener? Are your kids? Successful communication is always a two way thing – with a speaker and a listener. Both parties have an important role to play if there is to be understanding. Unfortunately, there tends to be more lessons on speaking clearly than there is on listening intently, and yet, one without the other is equally ineffective.
I am sure we have all been in social situations where we have felt that others didn’t listen to what we wanted to say: we were interrupted, talked over, and the subject was changed to suit the other person – we didn’t feel heard or understood. It seems as if some people approach conversation ready to disagree, criticise or correct but in order to build relationships, and grow as a person we need to learn to be a good listener as much as we need to learn to say what we mean when we speak.
Today, I’m sharing ten skills for all who want to be a good listener. Whether you are an adult or child, parent or sibling, boss or worker – we all listen to someone in the course of our day. We listen to our kids, our spouse, our friend, or neighbour. Same goes for the kids – they need to listen, using these 10 tips, to their parents, their siblings, their teachers, their friends, their neighbours. This is something for everyone to learn how to do better.
10 Points for a Listener to Remember
1—Respect the Speaker: This means you need to put aside your thoughts about their dress, their mannerisms, their presentation style and focus instead on the fact that they have something to say. It may not be your favourite topic, it may not interest you at all, but in considering the preciousness of others, we need to listen – because what they are talking about is important to them. Respecting the other person is a principle we need to live by – and conversations gives us a very good opportunity.
2—Hear the speaker out: It is easy to respond too quickly with our response or our own idea, either in agreement or in disagreement. Out of respect, we need to hear the speaker out. Let them finish what they have to say. It is quite okay to disagree with a speaker, but disrespectful to let your opinions be known until they have finished speaking.
3—Listen to the Heart: Sometimes a speaker may find it hard to get the right words out – if we are prepared to listen to their heart, not just their words, we’ll be able to come to a place of understanding much quicker. Listening with respect and giving them the benefit of the doubt will help you hear their heart, instead of just the words you hear.
4—Control your Body language: Our body language gives signals to the speaker that we truly are engaged and interested in what they have to say. When we are listening our body leans forward slightly and maintains eye contact. We need to keep our face mobile – showing expressions as appropriate to really listening, our emotions also need to be appropriate to the topic at hand.
5—Ignore distractions: A good listener will tune out distractions in the background. Should other people be creating distractions, a good listener will try and encourage them (without causing a disturbance by doing so) to pay attention. Of course, a good listener will not be the cause of such a distraction.
6—Engage our mind: We need to discipline our minds so that we stay focused with what is being said, instead of letting our mind wander around thinking of other interesting things. It is tempting to let our minds wander, even if we are interested, but we need to listen with our whole mind as someone is speaking. Though it is helpful to have a question to ask the speaker, we need to be careful not to spend our focus on formulating such a question, that we actually miss what is being said.
7—Ask Questions: It is important to ask questions in either personal or lecture situations. Questions show that we are interested. Once we ask the question we need to be ready to actively listen to the answers! But a warning here – don’t be so keen to ask questions that you forget to really listen.
8—Don’t change the topic: Tempting though it may be, changing the topic before the subject is exhausted, is rude. Another rude thing people do is to start a little conversation on the side with someone else in the group. Both these things show the original speaker that you are no longer interested.
9—Reflect back: This is often used during conflict resolution – It is the practice where you listen to the other person and then quickly and briefly verbalise what you have heard, giving them opportunity to correct your understanding. This is a good way to both engage, but also to confirm that you are understanding correctly.
10—Show appreciation: This can be shown in a variety of ways, generally depending on the situation. A comment to encourage or a round of applause for example will reassure the speaker and validate their opinion, ideas, research or presentation but most importantly we want to validate the person. Remember #1 – it is the preciousness of the person that motivates us to be a good listener and to show them our appreciation. In personal conversation we can show our appreciation for their words by actually telling them (when they are finished) not only how much you appreciate their words, but how those words have impacted you. This may seem stiff and formal in some situations, but always be ready to thank someone for sharing a part of their life with you.
Why being a good listener is so important
Whenever we want to teach our kids something it is helpful to understand why this is so important. Why is listening so important?
–It shows respect to the other persons ideas, interests, effort, position etc…
–It shows empathy to the other person – it tells them that you care and are interested in them
–It helps us to learn from others – when we listen and learn from others we stand on their shoulders and our learning is built on theirs
–When we listen to others we build relationship with others because we start to ‘get’ them, we start to understand their heart.
–When we listen people will give us responsibility because they see we are able to follow through and get the job done.
Listening benefits both the speaker and the listener.
These 10 points are as valid for conversation with a friend as they are to listening to a lecture, sermon or read aloud. Many of these can be practised in the family setting; for example, around the dinner table, in the lounge room, or in the car – any time talking is taking place we can encourage our children in any one of these skills.
I always found it best to isolate one skill and teach and practice that one thing over and over – instead of trying to teach all aspects of being a good listener at once. So which one of these tips are you going to focus on this coming week in your family? Love to hear how you go.
Further reading you may be interested in:
Though we have to listen to people all day, in many situations, taking time to create conversation around the dinner table is probably the best time for practice. Conversation Starters for Around the Table
This blog posts encourages parents to give children opportunity to find their voice – whether you aim for public speaking or just being able to look someone in the eyes and speak – speaking is the other side of listening. Teaching our Kids to Stand up and Speak
Throughout the week I share with other blogs – check out my Link ups and Party page