Each one of us has a powerful desire to be heard. We all love to talk and are propelled to everyday conversations out of necessity or to exchange pleasantries.
At times, we have real dialogues with a cherished friend or colleague. When people speak to us, we try to exhibit behaviors which make them feel they have our full, undivided attention and that we are in fact, listening to them: we nod, offer encouragement, give advices, present suggestions and voice our opinions.
But, it takes more to be a good listener. Let not the art of listening be lost on us. Do not drown others’ voices with noise and superficial responses. Practice to become a good listener, as conversations with a good listener are both pleasant and therapeutic; people will feel cared for, understood and connected when you actually listen to them.
The good listener takes in both verbal and nonverbal cues from interpersonal communication ― this is called active listening. The good listener makes eye contact by facing the person and leaning towards them. The good listener notes the conflicting messages through nonverbal cues. When asking someone how they are doing, the good listener would know the real answer by observing the cheery response versus the teary eyes.
By responding rather than reacting, a good listener assures the person they are interacting with, that their thoughts and feelings matter. Rather than offering unsolicited advice or giving personal opinions which may cause resentment, the good listener, knowing that a person is entitled to their own feelings, however negative, will encourage others to express themselves freely without judgment.
They encourage the speaker to keep talking by using the words: “go on.” The good listener acknowledges emotions and does not give false reassurances.
If someone tells you how devastated they feel on the recent death of a family pet, the response shouldn’t be advising them to buy a new pet to replace the departed or that they will get over it soon, instead acknowledge their grief by saying: “You are devastated that you lost such a cherished friend. He wasn’t just a pet.”
In this way, the good listener is able to convey their concern for the person. An appropriate, gentle, and comforting touch will also help: a hand on the shoulder, a light hug or a gentle squeeze of the hand.
The good listener asks open-ended, relevant questions. Questions that may be answered by a YES/NO won’t suffice. In this way, feelings are explored and there is an allowance for self-evaluation, wherein perceptions and views are discussed.
The good listener also maintains silence as needed and is congruent with their words and actions. Assuring a person you are listening while periodically tinkering with your phone sends an ambivalent message.
The good listener avoids changing the subject. If a friend wants to talk about her officemate woes for the umpteenth time, the good listener doesn’t cut her off to talk about something else or make sarcastic remarks.
The good listener will be remembered by people with fondness, they are able to foster more meaningful relationships with others. Good listeners are valued in society because after all, we all desire to heard and not just listened to.