We all know how important it is to listen in order to learn but how good are we at listening and do we fully appreciate how important listening can be not only for our own understanding but for all our relationships both personal and professional. Good (deep) listening also requires more effort than you might think. Honestly assess yourself against the basics of good listening that follow.
First, do you quieten your own mind in order to be fully present for the ‘speaker’ ? Most of the time our heads are full of an endless stream of thoughts. Listening is not just about nodding in agreement at intervals it involves following what the other is saying and checking frequently that the accuracy of what you think you are hearing/sensing. Therefore, it is also about listening to what is being said between the lines, and the non verbal communications. You may have heard what is being said, but missed what is being communicated !
Secondly, do you stay present with the speaker ? Do you avoid the temptation to jump in ahead of what you are hearing, perhaps with your own conclusions and solutions ? Can you put your own opinions on hold?Listening is not about solving the problems you think you are hearing, but allowing the other the dignity of coming to his/her own decisions, even if you feel they are wrong.
Thirdly, can you listen when something deeply disturbing to you is being expressed or you feel threatened by what you hear. Can you remain composed and empathetic when anger, disapproval or criticism is being expressed ? Can you remain non judgemental ? Remember that it is difficult to listen when you are inwardly justifying your own beliefs.
Finally, can you shed your own preconceptions (good or bad ) about the person to whom you are listening ? This can be a particular challenge if you have a close relationship with the person.
So maybe listening is not so easy after all !
You have probably figured out by now that we need to develop a lot of personal qualities in order to be a really good listener. You need a lot of self knowledge eg to know when your buttons are being pressed by something you hear. You need to be genuinely compassionate and warm to develop trust, but sufficiently detached so as not come across as having your own agenda or wanting something in return for listening. What you should be seeking to do is to free yourself up to see, understand, and experience as experienced by the speaker.
Good listeners know that what others most often want is not ‘advice’ but to be heard and respected. We all know deep down what the best course is for us (only we can know this), but a listener can be just the catalyst we need to help us gain perspective on our situation.