Have You Really Listened Lately?

When was the last time you really felt heard? What was that like? How did you feel? What were you thinking? Did you notice that it was different from talking to other people? When we have been cherished and heard we walk away feeling more connected and our feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and despair can decrease. Now, how about the last time you took time to really listen to someone else? Listening is an art form that can be developed through practice, patience, and learning a few techniques.

Knowing your friend’s personality type can help you be a better listener. For instance, when you ask your friend how they are doing and you hear a vague answer, remember if they are an extravert or an introvert. Extraverts tend to be fairly open with their thoughts and emotions, unless they don’t want to talk about them. So if an extravert gives you a vague answer, they want space. Asking your extraverted friend more questions will only annoy them and possibly make them more guarded. However, if your introverted friend gives you a vague response they are giving you a hint that there’s more there, and they are inviting you to ask more questions. Introverts typically like to be pursued because it requires more energy for them to invest in others. Asking them follow-up questions to their vague response shows that you care about them.

Nodding can be confusing as well. Women like to nod to show they are listening, understanding, and following what their friend is saying. Men, on the other hand, nod when they agree with what their friend is saying. So be sure to only nod where appropriate.

Here are some other things to keep in mind:

  • Eye Contact is very important. Use it and maintain it.
  • Time and Place: choose them wisely. People are more likely to share when they feel comfortable and not rushed. You should limit the number of distractions and noises.
  • Electronic Devices should of course, be turned off, or on silent. It’s hard to pay attention to your friend in front of you and your friend on the phone or computer at the same time. You friend will appreciate your undivided attention.
  • Follow-up Questions show you’ve been listening and are interesting in them and what they have to say. Try to avoid asking a “why” question as it can immediately put your friend on the defensive. For example, instead of asking, “why did you do that?” you could ask, “what were you thinking just before that?” or “help me understand how you were processing that.”
  • Just Listen and don’t think about how you might respond to what they’re saying. When there’s a lull in the conversation, then you can ask another question. Often people just need to be heard – not fixed. Additionally, thinking can distract you from listening and they may answer your question or thought anyway.

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