Good Listening: The Cornerstone For Healthy Relationships

Communication is a two way process needing the vital ingredients of openness, humility acceptance and listening with your heart. Numerous opportunities of speaking and listening arise every single day. It could be with a co-worker, with your child, your superior, or your spouse. What usually happens is that it ends up becoming an ego tussle wherein your voice needs to be heard more, your ideas need to be aired more and you need to win every verbal match . Little do we realize the level of frustration felt by the one who is desperately needing to be heard, till we meet someone who is an aggressive speaker and a terrible listener. Not only do such listeners assume a certain position of superiority but through their body language or choice of rhetoric, end the communication even before it’s begun.

Many relations sour because of the channels of communication falling apart. A simple conversation turns into a battlefield for personalities. Communication can be an emotional and personal journey of discovering the other and not a mere transaction. It’s in understanding the significance of ’empathic listening’ that real communication can thrive and relationships mature and solidify into something stronger.

The Bane Of Collective Monologue
Most of the time we are simply not listening. We are either speaking or preparing to speak. We are completely overwhelmed by our own rightness and and fail to understand what could be happening inside the others mind. Selective listening by piping in a ‘of course ‘ or a ‘sure’ or even a ‘really?, can help st n impersonal level .It does nothing to create a constructive and real communication with the people who matter to you. You are merely reflecting what the other is saying without wanting to get involved or investing emotionally in the conversation. The other extreme usually is when people try to manipulate or control the conversation. This sort of listening where you are merely mimicking the others words or wanting to hijack the conversation leads to a truncation of emotion , character and relationship.

Empathic Listening
Empathy simply means trying to involve yourself in the others frame of reference, thus understanding the other more emotionally, intellectually and completely. It’s a paradigm of conversation where listening is a constructive medium of absorbing the others body language, words , behavior and what we laconically call ‘undertones’. Thus it’s less of ears and more of eyes and heart. It opens up our hearts to be invaded by certain disturbances of true emotions .One can never provide answers, suggestions or real advice to anyone who is sharing unless you practice this complete form of listening. It is essential for raising your emotional quotient and strengthening relationships.

How To Be A Better Listener:

  • Rapt Attention-Focus on the person completely. Do so to show that nothing else matters.You must ensure not getting distracted by the environment. Put aside all distracting thoughts and most importantly listen with your eyes , notice the mood and the ‘need’ of the person through the body language and you would be on your way to having a useful piece of conversation.
  • Restating-Show that you have been listening by summarizing in a few words what you could glean. For instance you could insert some props like-“so, what you are saying is…..” or ” Now let me get this right….” .You would thereby assure the other of your sincerity and honesty about real listening.
  • Unplug and turn on your focus- Truly the bane of hurried and overly mechanical lives we lead, it’s quite impossible to listen intently with the TV on , the music playing or your mobile buzzing . It’s about finding or making time to have a real conversation. It’s not without a reason that the human mind absorbs between 25%-50 % of what it hears . That’s bound be worse when you have so many distractions around.
  • Empathize but don’t be judgmental- One needs to be critical but not verbalize it. Respect the others actions or perceptions without approving it . A good listener needs to remember not to turn the conversation into a ‘preaching session’. Draw a line between acceptance and approval.
  • Show that you are listening- More often than not, as listeners we either over-patronize or we go into a complete silent phase. We could actually be listening ,but the it’s not being communicated . Add a word where needed but don’t sound robotic. Assume an open posture, smile when needed and have appropriate facial expressions without looking overly dramatic. Nodding occasionally helps. Give positive encouraging words to keep the conversation going and do not prepare a rebuttal. Somewhere the eyes give in your real mental state .
  • Stop Interjecting-Every time the other pauses for breath you most certainly don’t have to come up with a piece of advise or an opinion. Let the other complete his or her entire thought delivery. Don’t begin an answer immediately. It would seem like you were planning your rebuttal all along and the entire listening was ‘farcical’. Defer asking questions after every argument presented unless you want a debate.
  • Asking The Right Questions-There is a fine line between condescending and probing questions and questions that prove that you were actually not judging but wanting to know more. To show you were listening, always ask a question that prompts an elaboration of a general statement without sounding critically curious.
  • Active listening requires respecting the others opinion and perspective thus what follows automatically is a response that is open candid and honest. Assert your views without hurting the others feelings or treating their views condescendingly.
  • *Always comment that you appreciate the others ability to share and speak about something difficult. In this manner we create bonds that last for ever. Avoiding pre-judged notions or what is termed as ’emotional labeling’ thus ensures openness in greater measures.
  • * Stop Interrupting- Interruptions merely signal that you want that voice to halt and your non-commitment to anther’s viewpoint. Allow the person to finish an argument without a counter-question. Don’t turn your conversation into an inquest. It’s actually following the old concept of ‘diagnosing before prescribing’ that helps to become a good listener.

It’s with a great deal of focus, determination and habit- breaking that one can practice good listening. We listen to learn , enjoy, obtain information and grow intellectually. Empathic listening involves allowing yourself to be affected by deep listening . It breaks down walls of prejudged notions and conditioned thought processes.

Relations suffer due to pre-diagnosed means of communication.The “I” subsumes the “us” and soon conversations go down the way of ending in complete silence and the breakdown of communication. It’s through what Steven R. Covey calls an autobiographical approach that we address most of the stimulus in a conversation. What we need to do is instead junk the old approach , listen without a pre-disposition of guile or hypocrisy and let the one with a problem solve it with your avid support , at his time and in his pace. Only then can conversations become non-transactional and more transformational. It is the most wonderful and innately easy skill to develop allowing people around us to open their true selves to us layer by layer, thus coming closer to you as never before.