How true that is! How often do we think about what we’re going to say when a friend, a student, a client, a customer, a family member is trying valiantly to share his thoughts, his dreams, even the grocery list? This is one of the biggest and most frequent barriers to clear communication.
There are others:
- Listening with apathy or disinterest – evidenced by looking away, fidgeting, daydreaming
- Allowing a friend or client to share his issues, challenges, or even a story – but then responding with your own story and feelings rather than responding to what your client actually shared; in other words, making you the subject of the conversation rather than your client’s dilemma.
- Responding with emotional attacks, defenses, arguments, pity, unsolicited advice rather than clarification, understanding, compassion.
- Responding to tears or uncomfortable emotions by trying to stop them: “oh, don’t cry” “don’t talk like that!” etc.
- Talking nonstop – leaving little to no space for others to speak.
- Changing the subject
Want to improve your listening habits? Give yourself time, dedication, patience and compassion. Pick one of these habits each week. Pay attention to how often you do it. Hardly ever? Good, now pay attention to another habit. Are you shocked at how often you do this one? Good, now don’t cringe or berate yourself. Awareness is the first step to positive change. Keep paying attention. Soon you will notice your own emotions – the feelings you are having when you are not listening well. Often, we feel fear or discomfort when faced with another person’s emotions – painful or otherwise. First we notice the poor listening habit. Next, we notice the emotions tied to the habit. Now, when the emotion comes up for you, breathe gently and allow yourself to move through it. Refocus on your friend’s sharing – his words, emotions. Allow him his moment. Allow him to experience his moment fully, without your interference.
Congratulations, you’ve just become a better listener!
Now keep at it, in my personal experience, this is a journey that takes persistence, as do all of the best habits!