Feeling Heard

11 Oct

‘Listening is one of the most difficult skills on the planet’ said Nicole Lipkin, and  I couldn’t agree with her more.

Having someone listen to you is a rare gift.

Screening out distractions like cellphones continuously messaging or ringing , your own list of a million things to do ,  thoughts and biases that flit through your mind and with all that completely attending to the other person does take a lot of effort.

To be a really good listener you need to understand not just the ‘content’ of what is being said but also the ‘context’ in which the sharing is being done.

Paraphrasing or summarizing what we understand was said by the speaker gives us a clearer understanding of the content spoken, but just the content is not enough.

Listening means paying attention not only to the story being told but also understanding from where it’s coming and the verbal and non verbal ways in which it’s  being told.

Encouraging the person to share more gives you insights into the context from where these feelings and thoughts arise. After all aren’t we a composite of our experiences and influences!

This isn’t easy.  It requires you to shift away from where you are to where the speaker is; give up your opinions and experience his…..and from there listen non judgmentally and empathetically. That’s when you hear not just ‘what’ is being said but also ‘why’ its being said. Its only then that the speaker feels the relief of being completely heard and understood.

Few common mistakes we make while listening are –

Jumping in to give advice- No sooner the first few lines are done we construct a problem that the speaker may be having and get involved in giving well meaning but unsolicited advice. Many a time the speaker is quite capable of finding his solution and all he wants at that moment is to be able to talk to someone.

Sharing your own experiences- This type of listener is present only for the first few lines. He/She then begins to narrate his own life experiences.  Deflecting the topic to your own story leaves the speaker feeling lost and incompetent at handling his issues. Resisting the urge to talk, listening and responding adequately helps us build patience and character.

Minimising the matter – When the speaker talks of his disappointment, many a time the listener reminds him of how things could have been worse. Of course this is a known fact, but, to the speaker his issue is overwhelming and being heard is very validating. Infact  he clams up when he realizes that his issues are not been given center stage

Listening is healing. It sends out the message that says ‘You are important to me , I respect you’. It makes one feel  accepted, understood and valued.

Listening is a skill that requires a great deal of effort and patience. Its capacity can be diminished or strengthened making it a transformative communication tool.

Make time to listen to people, and notice how it changes not just their life but also yours.

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