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The Lost Art of Listening, Pt. II: Why Am I Talking?

By: Bridgette W. Gottwald, LPC, NCC

If you read my previous blog post, you learned about the value of listening, the improv approach, leadership, and motivation. Part two of the lost art of listening blog series will discuss the never-ending learning curve and go over some helpful dos and don’ts to listening that you can implement into your own life.

Rather than just sitting quietly, make an active effort to show the person that you are listening – appropriate body language will show the other person that you are making an effort and that you are in the present moment. You can utilize body language to add energy to the conversation and even if you are listening intently, it’s key that you show the other person that you are. Sitting with your arms crossed and staring at them quietly might not convey this. Communication can be tough, but remember that about 80% of it is non-verbal. I often say to my clients that to communicate well, we must over-communicate.

Joel Peterson, the chairman of JetBlue Airways emphasizes the importance of not having an agenda. He states:

“When you have your own agenda when you’re listening to someone, what you’re doing is you’re formulating your response rather than processing what the other person is saying. You have to really be at home with yourself. If you have these driving needs to show off or be heard or whatever, then that kind of overwhelms the process. If you’re really grounded and at home with yourself, then you can actually get in the other person’s world, and I think that builds trust” (Peterson, JetBlue Airways). 

Never-Ending Learning Curve

Make it your goal to learn something from everyone you speak with. You are not better or worse than anyone and everyone has something valuable to bring to the conversation — some experience you haven’t had before; some lesson they may have learned the hard way. If you show interest and energy amidst conversation, it will encourage people to respond and share what they know and how they learned it. It gives them a reason to open up and be vulnerable. Plus, it’s fast and free education that can “help you build relationships.” It seems basic and obvious, but it’s much easier said than done!

The most important day-to-day practice of showing someone you respect them is by listening to them. Some of these do’s and don’ts might help you to fine-tune your listening skills. 

DOS

  • Clear your mind
  • Turn off your phone or put it away
  • Turn away from electronic distractions like monitors or televisions
  • React in the moment and stay present
  • Stay grounded
  • Be empathetic
  • Know why you are talking
  • Nod encouragingly
  • Lean in
  • Show interest
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Aim to learn something from everyone
  • Ask: What do you think?

DON’TS

  • Check email
  • Plan your answers in advance — in doing this you are thinking more about yourself and what you are going to say in response as opposed to what the other person is actually saying to you
  • Multitask
  • Think about your upcoming schedule
  • Judge
  • Brag
  • Bring an agenda
  • Have the same conversation again and again
  • Assume you have all the answers
  • Shut people out from forming a plan

Do people in your life consider you a good listener? Practicing some of these approaches and applying this to your own life might help you to improve upon the lost art of listening. Listening is becoming more of an increasingly rare skill, and mastering it will make you stand out positively.

If you would like to continue working on improving your listening skills, counseling can help. Explore our therapy services online, and contact Symmetry Counseling today to get paired with a Chicago therapist for support.

Reference:

Bryant, A. (2022). How to be a better listener. New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/guides/smarterliving/be-a-better-listener

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