The Art Of Listening: How To Open The Doors To Genuine Connection
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ― Stephen R. Covey
Think back: How many times in your life have you felt listened to, really listened to? Without someone leaping in to offer advice or minimize your experiences with an empty phrase like, “It's not so bad”? If these moments seem few and far between, you're not alone; though we as a society dedicate a great deal of time to learning how to express ourselves, we've allowed listening to become something of a lost art.
Most people, of course, mean well—they don't intend to monopolize conversations and they genuinely want to help the person they're talking to. They simply have no idea how to go about it because their own experience with true listening has been so sparse.
Mastering The Art Of Listening
Encourage them to keep talking. Don't shut down the conversation with well-intentioned platitudes like, “Everything will be okay,” and resist the temptation to leap in and assert your opinions before the other person has indicated that he or she is completely done speaking. Instead, ask the other party to elaborate on his or her experiences and fully investigate his or her emotions. This doesn't have to be a complex process; asking simple questions like, “Go on?” or “Has this situation been like this for a while” will often suffice.
Avoid the temptation to make moral judgements. Remember, the most important thing you can do is just be present for someone else's pain; unless they ask for you to help them make a moral judgement, keep the focus on empathizing with their experience, even if you wouldn't handle their situation in exactly the same way. When you interject with judgemental comments, people become more hesitant to speak because they feel as though their normal human flaws and weaknesses are unacceptable to you.