When the people in your life share their feelings, fears, wants, needs, dreams, frustrations, or whatever with you, they are looking for one of the following:
- They just want you to listen.
- They want honest feedback, opinions, or feelings.
- They want you to agree with them.
- They want you to disagree with them.
- They want you to share your feelings, experiences, or attitudes with them.
Guess which one most people want most often and get the least?
If you guessed anything other than listening - you may find you are having some communication problems in a relationship.
Keep in mind listening is different than hearing. Just because you hear the other person doesn't mean you are listening.
Listening takes place on two levels: conscious and unconscious. When you listen to a person consciously you are paying active attention to their words, intent, feelings, attitudes, and meaning. When you listen unconsciously you catch their words but you may miss subtleties of their intent and meaning.
Here are a few things to consider the next time your partner or another person shares words, feelings, and emotions with you.
- You don't have to like the message to be willing to listen.
- Listen for the central theme of the message not just the points they make.
- Stay in the present moment. Don't rush ahead or get stuck in old baggage.
- Offer feedback to demonstrate that you are listening.
- Ask questions when you don't understand something or a remark.
- Don't offer your opinions unless they are solicited.
- Make lots of eye contact.
- Stay focused on the other person, not yourself.
- Don't become impatient if they take verbal side trips while they are talking.
- Don't rush them.
- Some people are only looking for support or understanding and not your opinions.
- Resist the tendency to consider your response before they are finished.
Remember one of the greatest compliments you pay a person is willingness to listen to them whether you like, agree with, or are interested in the subject.
Learn to listen well and you will be amazed at how your relationships improve.