In the course of our daily encounters, we are obliged to listen to others. Without good listening skills, this can turn into a heated discussion or something worse. I always thought my listening skills were okay but I discovered that they weren’t what they ought to be when I began my training as a conflict resolution facilitator with the Alternatives to Violence Project.
Here are some “do’s” and “don’ts” you would be wise to consider:
DO maintain eye contact. Look interested and try to be interested. Make an effort to remember what is being said. Ask questions that may help clarify what was said. One phrase I’ve learned to use with great results is simply: “This is what I heard you say. Correct me if I’m wrong.”
DON’T interrupt, give advice, or judge. Save your opinion on the matter for another time. Telling a story of a similar experience isn’t helpful either.
Listening is a human faculty sorely neglected by many of us. Yet, isn’t true that we want to be listened to? Listening well is not only a skill; it’s an attitude. It can also provide healing power for the person expressing hostility or pain.
Ralph Roughen wrote a wonderful piece entitled On Listening that I would like to share with you:
When I ask you to listen to me and you start by giving advice, you have not done what I asked. When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have failed me, strange as it may seem.
Listen! All I ask is that you listen, not talk or do...just hear me. When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, you contribute to my fear and inadequacy. And I can do for myself. I'm not helpless. Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.
But when you accept as simple fact that I do feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can quit trying to convince you and get about the business of understanding what's behind this irrational feeling. And when that's clear, the answers are obvious and I don't need advice. Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what's behind them.
Perhaps that's why prayer works, sometimes, for some people...because God is mute, and He (She) doesn't give advice or try to fix things. God just listens and lets you work it out yourself.
So please listen and just hear me. And if you want to talk,wait a minute for your turn, and I'll listen to you.