3 Steps To Becoming A Better Listener

Communication seems to be a constant struggle in today’s society. Issues with communication, in any sense, can easily be resolved through one simple factor: listening.

For the past two weeks, I have been reading memoirs, talking to students, and attending the wonderful Yoga for Health conference that gave insight into how to better share yoga with cancer patients. In this short little period of time, the concept of active listening really resonated with me. That concept may seem confusing at first, but if you take a moment to think it over it becomes very clear. Here are some steps to becoming the ideal listener:

1. Listen with the intention to understand, not with the intention to respond.

This is the biggest issue in communication that I see in communication, not only in others, but also with myself. We get so caught up in giving the best answers to statements that we sometimes miss out on underlying issues the speaker was trying to convey. Sometimes, this can even cause arguments to go in circles because both parties are talking without being heard. One way to clue yourself in on if you are doing this is by checking in on your conversations with others. If you already have a response planned before the speaker finishes his or her sentence, then you are not actively listening. Rather, you are listening to respond and therefore are not fully absorbing the speaker’s intended message. To fix this, simply focus on what the speaker is saying, and form a response once the speaker is finished talking.

2. In suffering, bare witness and hold space.

When someone trusts you enough to open up during their grieving or difficult time, the conversation no longer revolves around you and your comfort. Sometimes when we hear stories of cancer, a family member going through a hard time, or some other significant struggle, we as listeners get uncomfortable and want to make ourselves feel better. Don’t do it! Refrain from comparing their suffering to something you or someone you know has gone through {unless they are specifically asking for it}. When you bring your story to the mix, it makes theirs seem invalid. Those outside experiences mean nothing to the sufferer in that moment. Also, abstain from using euphemisms that help YOU feel better. People don’t need to be told that everything happens for a reason when their house just burnt down. Kids don’t need to be told their parents went to a better place when they die of cancer because that means the parent would choose to be without the child. Finally, throw out the idea that you can fix the issue {again – unless you are specifically asked}. Most times, people who are in a tough situation just need to vent out their problems. That doesn’t mean they need help solving them.

Your responsibility as the listener is to bare witness and hold space. Thank them for being open enough to share their struggles with you and let them know that you are willing to help them in any way you can {if that is a true statement}. Validate their feelings. Speaking from personal experience, nothing feels more reassuring than having your feelings validated. Sometimes, people who are in a tough situation just need someone to listen without any response. Even still, some just need a hug without speaking a word. All you have to do is listen to what he or she needs in that moment. Nothing more. Nothing less.

3. Be present.

This, by far, is the most important rule in having a successful conversation. Not only with others, but also with yourself. When someone is speaking to you, keep your phone in your pocket and pay attention to what the speaker is saying. When you begin a yoga practice or a meditation, strive to remain present and focus on yourself and your body. When you are able to tune in and listen to yourself, you are able to listen to the world around you. In today’s busy world, we are always thinking about what is coming next.I challenge you to stop and listen.

 

Communication is such an integral part of the human experience. As you learn to be a better listener, you will learn to love people in a better way. Your relationships will blossom, and you will be more aware of the world around you. Share the love by shutting your mind and your mouth off for a moment to listen. You may be surprised by the connections you form and the new things you hear. ❀

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