"You never listen to me!" Do you recognize this phrase?
Perhaps someone has said it to you and you responded with, "What do you mean? You're talking to me and I'm looking right at you. Of course I hear you!"
"But I feel like I'm talking to the wall," the person responds.
Who's right? Who's wrong?
Hearing is not listening.
We hear birds chirping, we hear traffic in the street, but we don't listen to and respond to these sounds. Listening requires indications of interest with "key comments" to encourage the person to share more. While hearing is inactive and only requires your ears, listening is active and requires your ears, your mind and your mouth.
Use these 3 "key comments" to become a powerful active listener:
1) Reflect emotions: Your friend says, "I am so mad at Julie. She never follows through on her word!" Instead of saying nothing, you should respond with a non-judgmental comment like "I can understand how that would make you mad." The result: Your key comment lets your friend know that you are listening and you understand how she feels. In turn, she calms down and feels comfortable confiding in you, her friend.
2) Summarize: Your spouse tells you about the many things he or she did that day at the office or at home. Instead of remaining silent, you should summarize what he/she said. For example, "You sure did a lot today. From meeting with our son's teacher, to giving that presentation at work, it's amazing how much you accomplish." The result: Your spouse knows that you are listening to him/her and he/she is important to you.
3) Ask Open-ended Questions: Anytime you are in conversation with your spouse, child, friend or colleague, ask open-ended questions to motivate the person to open up and talk. Open-ended questions are: what? why? and how? For instance, you might say, "When you say [topic], what do you mean? The result: Open-ended questions show that you are interested and want to learn more.
"A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something."
-Wilson Mizner (1876-1933)
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