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Friday, 1 June 2012

Active Listening

Even though we have somehow divided men and women into planets - Mars, Jupiter, and may be Saturn- the one thing everyone shares is a desire to feel understood. Even if men use fewer words than women, the bottom line is that every person wants a good listener.

What is it that makes for an assertive listener? How can a listener be assertive, anyway? That would seem to be the one are where being passive would work pretty good. So here are some tips on active listening.

  • Listen up, listeners. In order to be an assertive listener, you have to actually shut up for a while. How are you going to know what's being said if you are listening only to the sound of your own voice?

  • Listening means more than being silent and counting to twenty so you can start talking again. But if you are completely silent, the other person may wonder if you are still breathing. Sounds silly! But a genuine "Really" or "Hmmm" lets the other person know you are with them.

  • Do you hear what is being said to you? If you could not repeat the speaker's last two sentences, you probably did not hear them. May be because it is too noisy in your own head. Tune out your own judgments, mind reading, and worries. Otherwise, it is like hearing two radio stations at once.

  • Ask yourself why the person is telling you this story. Do they want your opinion, sympathy, or anger on their behalf? Conversations go off in the ditch sometimes when a friend wants you to be supportive and calm and you get caught up in your own feelings of outrage over what happened.

    Try to put yourself in other man's shoes. And if you really do not know what they want from you, try asking.

  • Do you understand what is being said? Plenty of people can remember what was said but not know why it is important. If you are not connecting the dots, gently ask, "What is getting to you about this?"

  • If you can, connect those dots. An observation like "So Philip must remind you of your sister" can show that you understand what is meaningful about this story.