Guest Blogger Credit: Thanks to Tomas Garza of the Garza Initiative for this post.
We all consider ourselves good at communication. Most of us are excellent talkers. But how many of us are good at listening, too?
I don't mean simply being able to pick up on two out of five words somebody says, but actually listening to them, getting not only what someone says but also how they feel about it, truly hearing them, connecting.
If we think for a moment, it's easy to pinpoint people who aren't good listeners. When someone doesn't listen to you, you can't help but feel that they just don't care.
With the constant bombardment of information and pressures facing us every day, listening may seem like an inaccessible item, something that sounds good in theory but in reality is quite impossible.
It's not. The very first step is actually easy to practice. To make someone else feel heard, we simply place our attention on them and on what they're saying.
In other words, we turn off, even if just for a moment, the stream of chatter in our heads. The barrage of noise will still be there when we get back.
Then simply demonstrate that you're following the other person by watching your own nonverbal communication (nodding, saying "uh-huh" and the like) and every so often restating something they said or asking a clarifying question, for example, "What did you mean when you said ___?"
These short questions or statements show you're paying attention, and that's what we need from each other: to feel somebody cares enough to pay attention. The message? Our thoughts count; they are valued.