By Sara El Kareh
Listening, like any other talent a person has, needs to be developed. When you are willing to make powerful music or to appreciate any kind of music with a trained ear, you have to work on it. It doesn’t just come by itself. Similarly, listening to conversations and being a good listener require practice.
You may find it strange when we say “practice your listening”. You may think that listening to people talking every day, all the time, is just enough. However, you do not know the differences in types of listening. When you become a disconnected influencer who listens to people “on the surface” you are practicing everything but the good type of listening.
If you want to practice the influential kind of listening, you should teach yourself how to listen at a higher level, therefore, you need to know the 4 levels of listening first, from worst to best:
- Avoidance listening/listening over: Listening over is when you are showing no interest at all to what the other person is saying. This is shown when you are for example occupied with your phone or any other thing. In this case, the person speaking will feel ignored. It is an annoying way of “listening” and a very offending act for the person talking.
- Defensive listening/Listening at: When listening at someone, you always tend to make an issue out of every single thing being said. You don’t take the conversation seriously as much as you take it personally. People will avoid speaking to you because they thing it is an upsetting way for listening to them.
- Problem-Solving Listening/Listening to: This level of listening means listening in order to achieve something. You listen to solve a problem. It is just listening for a certain purpose. People who listen to others are those who are waiting for the facts that can help in moving forward. This can be a right thing to do if made in the right situations. It can help people to feel satisfied and relieved for a while, but it still keeps them hoping for something more than solutions. When you are willing to settle things with people, do not use level-three listening. Unlike what people think, it just leaves a lot of misunderstandings.
- Connective Listening/Listening Into: Connective listening is the best way of listening. People who use this way of listening get the full sense of the conversation. They are not acting as if they are listening to the other person. They listen to understand effectively what is being said by another person. It means listening without a plan, because you are doing that to concentrate on what others are saying and help them if they need. You are not prejudging, you can help the right way. When you listen into others, you are not only using your ears, but your eyes, heart, mind and body as well. Moreover, it includes creating space and being literally in the place where the other person is expecting you to be.
Read these tips in order to be a connective listener:
- Choose the right time and place where the other person will be comfortable to speak and have an open conversation with you.
- Use pauses from time to time in order to allow some thinking to the other person and help him speak more.
- Don’t be distracting, and be fully focused and attentive to what the other person is telling you. Forget everything about you, like you’re in the middle of nowhere, and just focus on this person. Let the things he is saying echo within you.
- Prevent yourself from giving solutions and advice while the other person is speaking. Do not forget that you are listening to learn, and not to defend or explain yourself.
Use similar questions as the following:
What does all this mean to you?
How do you feel towards it?
What’s your opinion about it?
What ideas come to your mind?
How do you see it?
What is your reaction when hear it?
What is the best thing about it?
What is the best thing to do respectively?
How can you maintain the flow?
When you start listening into other people, you will notice that it is not easy. It will appear to be very challenging and sometimes almost impossible to stay connect it. Therefore, all you need is practice in order to be good at it. No matter whom the person you are listening to is (family, friends, colleagues, coworkers, etc…), always put in mind that something valuable is going to be said. Resist your tendencies of arguing, defending or explaining. Just listen and wait to hear things you do not know.
Regardless of how you thing about people, whether a child, a friend, a partner or anyone whom you’ve known for a long time, be sure that you will be surprised by how much things they have to say if you just give them the chance and the space to do it. In this way, you can acquire a lot of information from which you can come up with wise solutions and reach a point that is effective for everyone involved.