I recently enrolled in a short term course on analytic listening. The idea of this class is to help therapists think about how we listen and to improve our listening skills. After the first class, I was struck by how complicated listening is. It’s not just a one-way exchange. We are taking information in, processing it and then ascribing meaning to it. We are also listening with our eyes. Often we are not consciously aware of the messages we get from the other person’s body language and facial expression.
Sometimes this exchange goes really well and the person we are in conversation with feels understood, their message has successfully been conveyed and we feel that we have gotten what they were trying to say. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Despite our best efforts we miss each other and don’t receive the message. Effective communication is vital to every relationship we have and being a skilled listener is key to achieving the best version of our relationships. So, how can you improve your listening skills?
Put down your smart phone. Lower the volume on your iPod. It’s easier to listen when you can focus on what’s being said to you.
Check Your Body Language
What is your facial expression saying? Are your arms folded across your chest? If so, unfold them. Open postures and facial expressions help the speaker to feel listened to.
Make Eye Contact
Look at the person speaking to you. It will help you stay engaged and focused on what they are saying.
What makes you feel like you are being heard?