We have all had those moments where we are only hearing a conversation, only to be called out with the phrase "But you're not Listening to me, repeat what I said back to me then". Or realizing that what you thought you heard from a conversation was in fact not true because you were not listening.
Listening vs. Hearing are two different senses that if not used in proper correlation to each other can cause communication issues. The act of hearing is rather simple and basic. Listening, on the other hand, is three-dimensional.
The definition of hearing has more to do with the physiological act of hearing sounds. While listening is to pay attention to what you are hearing, making sense of it with thoughtful attention, consideration and connecting with the person who is talking to you.
I know it seems so easy, so self-explanatory but yet we all do it at one point or another. Especially with so many distractions. I have even caught myself in the beginning of a conversation disconnect and just start swiping on my phone. There may be various reasons for it like you’re not ready to have a “heavy” conversation or your scared of the outcome. Well, be assured that disconnecting in this fashion will produce a negative reaction.
So how do we make changes to our Listening Habits. Let us delve into what is a Passive vs. Active Listener. A Passive Listener is someone who does not wish to contribute to the conversation and there are various reasons that someone can be Passive. It’s not always because they don’t want the interaction, but rather that they may feel they have nothing to contribute, or as noted before it may be a sense of fear or shame.
An Active Listener wants to improve mutual understanding by being curious, listening and responding with intent. This is the way you want to listen especially if you are looking for a solution or a better understanding of your partner(s) needs.
Here are some skills everyone should practice in everyday conversations and even more so in your relationships.
1. Ease In – Never rush into a conversation, ease into it. You might end up arguing rather than listening from the get-go.
2. Curiosity – Have a genuine interest in what is being said rather than formulating a response you think they want to hear.
3. Do not ask a yes/no question – Ask for clarification and more information. Listening with intent is an emotional act, so invite people to elaborate more.
4. Distractions – Avoid the noise in the room, turn off all distractions (social media, television etc.). Avoid interjecting with insults or changing the subject.
5. Right or Wrong – The conversation is not to be a score keeper. If something is said that equates to a “Your wrong” statement, then just use this as a moment to apologize. You can admit your fault or simply choose to acknowledge how the other person feels. That you “Listened” to them and understand.
This is a skill that will help your conversations with family, friends, coworkers and virtually all relationships. Do your best to be present in your conversations and be patient because being an Active Listener takes practice. Take a few moments to reflect on your relationships, are you actually listening or just hearing?