Sharpen Your Listening Skills to Improve Your Relationships

Do you have a relationship you want to improve? Begin by sharpening your listening skills. Listening is an often over looked communication skill in building relationships whether they are personal or work related. Lately, I have been getting more questons about how to be a good listner. I'm glad people are realizing the value in good listening skills. In case you are also trying to improve your relationships by being a good listene, the following article will help you develop good listening skills.

People have a need to be listened to because of an increased sense of isolation at home and at work. How long has it been since you felt someone really listened to you?

The increase in popularity of social networks and text messaging on Facebook, Twitter and many other sites gives you the ability to connect with someone just about any time. However, most text messaging and videos are more about telling friends what is going on in your life. They are not very good avenues for listening.

Listening is one of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship. It shows empathy which means you understand where the other person is coming from and how that he or she feels. The value in listening to someone is that it:

  • Shows you care for that person.
  • Creates connection and a sense of community or belonging.
  • Allows the speaker to feel safe when talking about feelings.
  • Lowers blood pressure.
  • Can lead to increased relaxation for the listener.

To be a good listener, you have to want to listenListening is a skill and an art that can be mastered once you understand what is required and practice listening to others.

First, listening is an active experience which requires involvement and commitment. While listening may appear passive, it is important to remember that during listening the inside of your brain is extremely active. It means doing what needs to be done rather than what you might sometimes like to do.

Second, a good listener needs to have patience. If you are in a hurry and are anxious to get the situation "fixed," chances are that you will do a poor job listening. Part of being patient also means not filling every silence during the conversation. Also, silences are usually not as long as they seem. It is not your responsibility to keep the conversation going.

Third, the physical setting is important when you are listening to someone. Listening can happen in many places as long as there are no major distractions. The goal is to give your full attention so that the person is able to comfortably share good things or concerns with you. Shelly Gable, a Positive Psychology researcher, discovered that knowing how to listen to positive things that your spouse or significant other experiences is more important in enhancing your relationship than listening to the negatives.

Also, it helps if you and the person you are listening to feel reasonably comfortable and relaxed. Sometimes this may mean you need to plan ahead to insure the setting is as distraction-free as possible and interruptions are minimized. If distractions are excessive, you have two options: end the conversation with a plan to meet later or continue – trying to do the best that you can to be attentive.

Now that the stage is set for listening, the following points describe how to listen effectively:

  • Be attentive. Use your eyes to watch for nonverbal cues. Keep your ears keen and your heart open.
  • Look at the person (direct eye contact may make some people uncomfortable) and look alert.
  • Do not drum or tap your fingers, play with a pencil or other objects, glance or stare at your watch or yawn deeply.
  • Listen for feelings, thoughts or ideas, attitudes about the situation, opinions about what can be done, body language, recurring themes or contradictions.
  • Acknowledge what is being said by paraphrasing or reflecting what the person is saying and feeling. Using words that describe how a person feels shows understanding and allows him or her to correct anything that may have been misunderstood. Also, it encourages the person to expand on what was being said.
  • Make sure your tone of voice and facial expression communicate acceptance which demonstrates you are committed to helping.
  • Ask questions that are open-ended (how, what, when, where). Check out what he or she hears, thinks, feels, wants and plans to do. Do not ask too many questions. Spend most of your time listening. Stay away from "why" questions which make people feel defensive.
  • Avoid quick conclusions and trying to figure out solutions if there is a problem.

I hope you will look for opportunities to practice listening, especially when the conversation is conflict free. Choose a time and place that will help you be attentive. Let yourself relax knowing you can be a good listener.

Comment below on what helps you be a good listener.

Until next time,

Maurine

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