Most of us probably think that we’re good listeners but that’s not always the case. How many times have you said to someone “But why didn’t you tell me?” and they’ve replied “I tried to, but you never seemed to listen”.
This is often particularly true in personal relationships, where it’s easy to take one another for granted and almost stop listening to your partner’s hopes, fears and general concerns about money, childcare or jobs (in fact, anything!).
It can also happen at work where a manager doesn’t listen to employees’ concerns, perhaps sifting through what’s worrying people in their team and deciding in advance what they’ll give credence to. Or you may have a colleague who, despite telling them several times, insists on doing things their way, however much it inconveniences everyone else.
So, what makes a good listener? Well, here are a few things to encourage you in listening to the people in your life:
- Have some patience – it can several attempts before someone is ready to open up, even if you usually have a close relationship with them.
- To show that you care, focus on the other person by making eye contact and putting away your phone.
- Whatever they say to you, if appropriate, say it back to them to make sure that you’ve understood what they were saying.
- Don’t interrupt or offer them a solution – sometimes, there isn’t one!
- Be brave – don’t be put off if someone gives a negative response.
- Don’t feel that you have to fill the silence – it may make you feel uneasy, but silence can open up new doors.
- Ask open questions so that the other person needs to say more than “yes” or “no” e.g. instead of saying “are you feeling sad at the moment”, try “try to tell me how you’re feeling at the moment”. Closed questions put paid to many conversations!
See how you get on and you may find that your friends and family confide in you more than previously and find you helpful because you listen to them.
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