The first century Greek philosopher Epictetus said: ‘We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we talk.’ Taking that on board means being ‘quick to listen, slow to speak.’ Good listening builds relationships. But good listeners aren’t born, they’re bred! So here are a few suggestions to improve your listening:
(1) Listen without interrupting. Resist the temptation to jump in and finish the sentence, or hijack the floor. Rein yourself in—just listen.
(2) Listen to understand. Try to grasp their point of view, feelings, thinking and needs. Good listening is hearing what they actually think, mean or feel, not what you imagine they do. Instead of guessing, ask, ‘Am I understanding you correctly? Do you mean…? Are you feeling…?’ In other words, don’t assume—verify.
(3) Listen without judging. Don’t rush to conclusions. If what they say doesn’t quite add up, keep listening. ‘He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.’ (Proverbs 18:13 NKJV) When you hear more, it may make sense.
(4) Listen without correcting, countering or devaluing. Saying, ‘That’s not the way it was,’ or, ‘What did you expect? If you hadn’t…’ or, ‘You’re just being too sensitive,’ puts people on guard and stops real communication.
(5) Validate the speaker. Accept their perceptions and feelings as valid expressions of a valued person. ‘If I understand you correctly, you’re thinking… feeling… Am I right?’ Ask them to help get you on the same page with them. ‘Given what you’ve told me, I can see why you’d feel what you feel,’ is very validating and will increase their confidence and willingness to consider the solutions you may offer.