Hello and welcome to week 12! We're rolling right along. How has your week been? What have been some positives this week? What have been some struggles? Did you have a nice Holiday? My Holiday went well. We made a whole meal and drove it over to my dads house. His dog is recovering from surgery he just had for removal of a tumor. We wish him a speedy recovery.
This week I would like to talk about listening. This is a concept that seems so simple, yet it can be so hard to do for people. Why is that? I'm not just talking about the act of simply hearing a noise, someone's voice, a conversation. I'm talking about the act of listening. Listening is an important tool to have in our toolbox. We need this communication skill for everyday matters in our life. This is something that we use to gain information, get clarification, and communicate with those around us. This is also something that we can do for others to provide that information, clarification, and communication. What simply is the difference between hearing and listening? Would you say you're a good listener? Do you have people in your life who are good listeners?
When we communicate with others, we use language and listening as our way of exchanging information back and forth. Sometimes this information can seem matter of fact, sometimes it's information we need to know for a certain task, and sometimes it's something that's really really important and big. Listening is important in all types of relationships: friendships, co-workers, relationships with family, and especially romantic relationships/partnerships. We, as humans, have a range of needs, but the need to communicate and being heard is a big one. Being a good communicator is something that is rare in this world. There's two sides to good communication: expressing and listening. People are so incredibly rushed. We always seem to have somewhere we have to be, working on careers/business, driving our children to a function, going to a party, going out to get supplies-there's always something. We constantly feel like we don't have time. We pack our schedules so tight, that even when we devote time to something, our mind can be filled with another thing that we need to do later. Sometimes it can feel like there's this huge electrical storm up in our brains and we're only half aware of our surroundings. So with all of that going on, how can we listen fully when someone is speaking to us? How can we slow down our own world, and be completely present in the moment? It takes work.
I used to catch myself really struggling to listen to someone and give them my full attention when they were talking to me. I still do once in a while. I would find myself thinking about the next task I had to do, or that I have to stop at the grocery store when I'm on my way home, what am I going to make for dinner, and did I turn off the stove? I would be engaged just enough into the conversation to be able to reply, but not enough to fully absorb what's being said to me. It's easy to fall into this habit. We're busy. We're distracted. The amount that we have on our plates right now is astronomical. It's easy to fall into this, and even easier to not realize you're doing it. I would find myself asking questions about information that was already communicated to me. But I also found that there were really important things that I was missing. I was missing important needs of the person communicating. I was missing an opportunity to really dive into some deep conversation. I was missing the problem the first time around that could have been fixed if I just would have paid better attention. So how do you take a step back and become a good listener? How can you push those extra thoughts out that are filling your head when you're communicating?
When I realized what my less than savory listening habits were, I made a conscious effort to become better at it. I realized that I was missing so much. Not only was I not respecting the person communicating, but I was also doubling back to ask for them to repeat themselves. There were a few key things that I did to work on my listening skills:
1) This first one is pretty self explanatory. I made sure I held eye contact. When you hold eye contact with someone, you're showing them that they have your full attention. It makes them feel like you are truly invested in what they are saying. Maintaining eye contact with someone, also gives you a chance to not only pay closer attention to the person who you are communicating with, but it also gives you a chance to read their body language and get a better understanding of what they're saying.
2) This one can sometimes throw people off, but it's an effective tool for really retaining the information given to you, and helps you think about your answer/response. Pause. Listen to what they're saying, retain it, and pause to give yourself a chance to catch up and form what you'd like to say back. Sometimes you may get a weird or an inquisitive look. I just say, "Hold on just a minute. I'm taking in what you just said, and I'm taking time to form how I'm going to respond. It works wonders. It really gives you a good chance to get out of the habit of simply listening to just respond. It's such a common thing that people do. We get so preoccupied and feel like we just don't have time so we just listen or hear to simply form a response without putting much thought into it. When I started doing this, I realized not only am I giving myself a chance to really hear what they're saying, but I'm also taking the time needed to form the things I want to say, and how I want to say it. This has also stopped me from hearing something that can give me hard feelings, and not jumping to conclusions or letting my emotions control my answers. It's saved me a lot of unnecessary reactions or responses that I later regret.
3) This one can be really hard. When someone starts communicating and talking with me, I will put down everything that's in my hands, turn my body so it's facing them, and empty my head of other thoughts. This may seem impossible sometimes. There may even be instances where we simply can't do this at that very moment. There may even be something that's preoccupying our thoughts that we simply can't turn away from at the moment. In these cases, it's more than ok to let that person know that you'd love to talk, but right now you're unable to provide them with the full attention that they need. Try to pick a later time when you're able to give them that respect for communication. This may upset or confuse someone, but overall, it's really ok to say that you can't right now. We are all in our own world. We all have things going on in our heads and our surroundings, that other people don't know about.
4)This one is huge. This one is two fold. It can not only let that person know that you're invested and listening, but it can also give you a chance to better understand and possibly even help them to better understand. Ask questions. Ask clarification. Repeat what they are saying back to them, but in your own words. This is how you and them really know that the information being discussed is being addressed and being heard. Sometimes, people may not want you to ask questions. Sometimes they simply want to talk, have you listen, and have you acknowledge their thoughts and feelings.
This can all seem pretty basic. You could be asking why I'm even talking about this. As I progress in relationships, I'm finding out more and more how important listening is. There is a lot of information that we miss when we don't listen. There are obvious things we miss that are being physically said, but there are more subtle things we miss when we don't give them or ourselves that full attention. People will tell you things with their body language, they'll tell you what's important to them, they even tell you how they want to be treated/loved. We do it all of the time. We give out subtle messages. We love people the way we want to be loved. If we feel like we're being listened to, we gain understanding, knowledge, and confidence. We gain good habits of standing and asking for what we need. When we listen to others, we get to learn more about them. We get to learn more about situations.
Words. Words have this incredible power to hurt, heal, empower, encourage and so much more. When we listen to the words of others, they're giving us a look into themselves. They give us so much information. When we truly start working on the way we listen, we not only open ourselves up to that person/scenario, but we open ourselves up to slowing down and listening to other things: Our surroundings, nature, the people who are closest to us. The feeling of good, healthy communication feels so amazing. When we truly figure out how to do that, think of how many arguments can be avoided. How many feelings can we spare from being hurt? How many big problems can we solve? How many things can we learn about others close to us? Their dreams, passions, love language, desires, needs. When we find this ability for others to provide it for us, we can truly feel free to share our most personal inner thoughts. The ability to feel safe and secure enough to express ourselves. Listening opens up so many doors that we don't even think about. It's one of the most important things about communication. I encourage you to work on your listening. Are you fully giving others your attention? Are you truly hearing them out? Are you surrounding yourself with others who are able to provide this for you?
I wanted to add a suggestion for a book I just read in two days. It's
one that my therapist had suggested to me a while ago. It's called, "The Four Agreements". This book was pretty eye opening, and it really made me think about the way I communicate, as well as making me take a look at how I communicate with myself. This one was so impactful and definitely worth the read. Thank you for stopping by for another week. I hope to see you all next week. Please feel free to leave comments, like, and send an email. Thanks so much everyone!