I realised some years ago that when others spoke I itched to jump in with my response. I grew increasingly excited about a discussion and even more so with what I could add to it. Being an introvert, a lot of my thoughts stay as my thoughts but when in a comfortable environment and a topic of interest is discussed, I get very much involved and become animated – hands everywhere!
Listening is giving someone your time at that moment, whether it be a friend, family member, colleague, mentee. It is focussing on that person without feeling the need to jump in with a solution or a question. Sometimes people just want to be listened to, to feel they matter, that their thoughts and feelings are of some relevance in this fast paced world. Often the question “How are you?” is asked expecting a standard “I am fine” response. Not everyone has the willingness or care to uncover how the person really is – they are happy to accept the standard answer and go back to whatever they were doing. I want to be the person who stops what they are doing to listen and am developing this skill.
It may be that you cannot offer a solution as the problem is not a practical one. Being a practical person I tend to want to help to solve the problems of others and feel slightly frustrated and redundant when I cannot. I am learning to reign in my impulse to do this as it causes a block to me giving them my full attention.
I am becoming more self aware of my body language and how I come across to others when listening to them. I physically assess myself and hold back from speaking if I feel there is a need. I give eye contact but am careful not to stare. I avoid looking at my phone or checking any other device unless I have clearly stated I am expecting an important text/call.
When I completed my counselling diploma over ten years ago, I learned key principles with regards to listening and being present with the person in the room. Those principles have stayed with me ever since. It is amazing that whilst studying with the intention of improving your skills to work with others that you learn much about yourself. Life is a journey of discovery and I am happy to be on board!
Do you find you speak far more than you listen or perhaps vice versa? How does this affect the way in which you communicate with others? Do you have any tips for effective listening?