Tag Archive: listening

The Art of Listening

The Listening Center believes strongly in the power of listening.  (Hence, the name.)  Our Vision statement reads:

The Listening Center believes that active, respectful, intuitive listening by professional therapists, fitness coaches, behaviorists, and other health care specialists will ultimately enable and empower individuals to hear their own story and realize that they can make a difference in the quality of their life.”

The truth is the quality of both your relationships and your work will improve dramatically if you hone your listening skills.  In relationships, communication breakdown is often behind many of the issues people face.  While it is important to work on being clear with others in what you say and what you are asking for, it is equally as important to be an effective listener.  Everyone wants to be heard, to be acknowledged, and to know that they are cared for.  In work, active and focused listening will help you see both possibilities and the holes in what is being said to you.  A good listener is a much better business person than one who only half-listens to what is being said simply because a good listener won’t miss as much.

The good news is that listening is a simple skill to hone.  The biggest step you can take is to simply be aware of how you are listening.  Just focusing on listening better will make you an exponentially better listener.  If you find your mind wandering while you are listening to another, simply redirect your attention and focus back to the person speaking.

There are two main components to being a good listener.  The first is the active component: your attention.  You cannot be a good listener without actively paying attention to what someone is saying to you.  Actively focusing on what is being said, how it’s being said, and any non-verbal cues from the speaker are all avenues on which to focus your attention.  The other main component to listening is more receptive in nature and that is being open and receptive to what another is trying to tell you.  Very often our own judgments, agenda, prejudice, or assumptions block us from really hearing what someone is trying to tell us.  That’s why it is so important to keep an open mind and an open perspective when you are listening to someone.  For instance, how often do we get stuck in a communication rut with our loved ones, having the same argument over and over?  Next time, clear your mind of all preconceived notions about what the other person is saying to you and try to take it in as if it was your first time hearing it.  This might help you have a fresh perspective and open up a line of communication between the two of you that had previously been closed.

A final tip on being a good listener is a strategy that “double-checks” you to make sure you really heard what someone was trying to tell you.  Sometimes, even if you are a great listener, you might misinterpret someone simply because they are having a hard time being clear.  That’s why most good listeners will reflect back what a person has said in an effort to be sure they heard it right.  This is a great tool for relationships because it cuts down on the possibility of miscommunication and it helps to make both parties in the relationship feel heard and validated.  Most reflect-back statements start something like, “So what you’re saying is…..” and then you just simply repeat what you heard.  If you got it right, great.  If not, the speaker has the opportunity to clarify.

We will end with one of our favorite quotes about listening, featured on the home page of our website:

“I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.” -Rachel Naomi Remen

Listening is an integral part of communication.  So often we tend to focus solely on trying to say what we feel we need to communicate that we forget about the other half of communication – listening.  There is within communication an inherent give and take.  Even when we are communicating with ourselves, we must also listen.

We are all aware of how important communication is to the health of a relationship, whether it is a marriage, a friendship, a parent/child, or a sibling relationship.  Good communication is as essential as trust and respect.   You must listen to your partner in the relationship in order for there to be successful communication between the two of you.  Here are 10 tips for effective listening:

1.    Focus
It is important to focus attentively on what the other person is saying.  Don’t start planning what you are going to say next as the other person speaks.  Don’t let yourself get distracted by your external environment or let your thoughts wander to what you are going to make for dinner that night.  Actively listen with intent to what is being said.
2.    Listen with an Open Mind
Try not to judge what is being said.  Keep your heart and mind open.  If you jump to conclusions or search for the right or wrong in what the other is saying, it will prevent you from really listening to what that person is saying to you.
3.    Be Respectful
Even if you disagree with another’s point of view, it is important to show respect for their opinion, as you would want respect shown for yours.
4.    Don’t Interrupt
Constant interruption is very frustrating to the speaker and can lead to a breakdown in communication.  Let the other person completely finish their thought before you respond.
5.    Don’t Rehearse
Don’t allow yourself to rehearse your response as the other is still talking.  Listen attentively and respond in the moment, naturally.  It’s ok to pause and gather your own thoughts once your partner has finished speaking.
6.    Use the Paraphrase Technique
Try to paraphrase / restate what your partner just said to you.  You could say something like, “So what I hear you saying is…”  This technique will help you focus and listen actively, as well as reassure your partner you are truly listening to him/her and help avoid miscommunication.  Sometimes the person speaking may be having a hard time getting across what they really want to say.  Paraphrasing or restating back to them will help them to know how effective their communication has been.
7.    Validate and Empathize
It is important to not only hear and understand what your partner is trying to communicate, but to also empathize with them and to validate them.  This takes the communication beyond the cognitive process of understanding to the emotional level of understanding, which is very important in relationships.  If, for instance, the shoe was on the other foot and you were the one trying to communicate your thoughts and feelings, I know you, too, would want empathy and validation.
8.    Pay Attention to the Non-Verbal Too
Try to be aware of the non-verbal communication happening in the interaction as well, both yours and the other person’s.  Non-verbal communication includes tone of voice, making eye contact or looking away, gestures such as nodding, shrugging the shoulders, crossing the arms, and facial expressions, and mannerisms such as tapping one’s fingers, or fiddling with one’s hair or clothing.  The non-verbal communication will give clues to the emotional state of the person behind the words spoken or listened to.  Your own non-verbal clues will give your partner an idea of whether or not you are listening to them and your reaction to what is being said.
9.    Avoid These Common Blocks To Effective Listening
Mind-reading, judging, day-dreaming, advising, rehearsing, mind-wandering, distraction by the environment (turn off the TV, for example), trying to be right or find wrong, filtering.
10.    Seek Help
If you and your partner are having a difficult time communicating in a healthy way, couples counseling can be very helpful in facilitating that communication.  A licensed, trained therapist with an outside perspective can offer great insight into where your communication breakdowns stem from, as well as teach you more effective communication techniques.  Alternatively, if you are experiencing difficulty communicating in general – if it pervades all areas of your life – then it would be helpful to seek psychotherapy, also called talk therapy.   Your therapist will offer the same to you individually as he/she would in a couples counseling setting.

I am thrilled to welcome you to The Listening Blog on behalf of The Listening Center, a counseling and wellness provider serving adults and children. At The Listening Center we focus our wellness services on the mental health and the physical fitness of our clients. We have collaborative and complimentary ways to integrate your mind and body counseling needs; and the professionals to guide you through your  journey to comprehensive wellness.

If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, marital issues, couples counseling needs, family concerns, behavior problems, school concerns, interpersonal problems, anger management, fitness goals, weight loss road blocks, nutritional needs, unhealthy eating habits, career goals, financial stress, infertility, considering adoption, and other mental, emotional and physical needs, we have the psychotherapy, personal training, counseling and supportive services to help. Thank you for considering The Listening Center for your very personal and important needs. We respect the courage it takes to deal with these sensitive and vulnerable issues and we will offer you the utmost in professionalism and confidentiality.

In addition to the excellent services we provide, we have a dedicated staff who is committed to “listening” to you and to empowering you to “listen” to yourself and your body. Listening is so much more than the act of hearing. It involves using all of your senses as well as your heart and soul. Active, respectful, intuitive listening is truly a gift you can offer to yourself and your loved ones and we strive to help you get in tune with your listening skills. Please join us here at The Listening Blog where we will post weekly on Mind-Body news, tips, resources, success stories, etc., and the overall theme will always include some “Listening” tips. Hope to see you here often …thank you, Cathy Duzenski

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