February 2nd, 2021

Are you listening to understand or to reply?

One of the biggest communications problems that I have faced in my professional career was the general skill of listening to reply and competitive listening. Was I a “listener to answer”? Yes, I was in that boat for years! At the beginning of my career, I was following the trend: waiting to tell my story, ending people’s sentences, and stopping listening if I had a negative reaction.

I failed.

My best partner in crime, who is the best active listener and listener-to-understand that I know, stopped my frantic conversation with a: “you can learn from silence”. My answer was: “Silence? How can learn from being silent? No way… bla,bla,bla.”

After that conversation, I did some research and started my “listening-to-understand/active listener” journey. Here is what I have learnt so far:

  • Being present matters. Don’t be distracted, look into the eyes of the speaker, and really listen to what he/she is saying. In the beginning, this was not an issue for me as at that time internet on our phones wasn’t around so much. But I did start to struggle when WhatsApp came around, so now I just put my phone down at the start of conversation.
  • Don’t assume information and don’t interrupt. One of the reasons why people are not active listeners is because they believe they already know what the other person will say.
  • Judging is not part of this game. When I am conducting a #IamRemarkable workshop, I always include this statement as one of my golden rules: Do not judge. I know it is hard, but an active listener withholds any personal thoughts or feelings and only shares them if they are asked to. Here’s a tip for you: If your Director is not asking for your opinion, do not give it.
  • Be a companion. Sometimes people just want to be heard, they do not want your opinion. I have learned a lot from Carlos Hernandez, author of “Un intruso en la familia”. Being silent can help build a relationship more than 1,000 words.
  • I can control my listening skills 100%, but not my speaking skills. I know what you are thinking… why can’t she control what she says?! Communication is not easy, and you need to be cautious with your content. If you are naturally talkative like me, you will understand what I mean! I can fully control all my listening skills but not my verbal communication skills.
  • Ask good and relevant questions. A relevant question doesn’t mean difficult, sometimes a relevant and good question can be as simple as a: “and… how do you feel?”
  • Repeat. I love repetition as it is proof that you are listening. Before your answer, repeat back to the speaker a summary of what you heard.

As the Dalai Lama said: “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know; But when you listen, you may learn something new”. I would add to this: listen and you will create an environment of safety and strength in your relationships.

Have a great day and welcome to the active listener world!

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