“I honestly thought he was the one! And now he says he doesn’t love me anymore”. Well, Ashley, I remember warning you so many times about him. I told you, he was a player.
“All the promises and plans made. It just hurts so much right now.” Heartbreaks. Inevitable. I remember mine very clearly. I think things with Joe hurt more than Jason. Wait, did I like dating guys with names starting with ‘J’? Oh my god! Look at that hottie.
“I just wish I knew better; you know? I wish I never met him”. Oh yeah, Ashley. Ah did I like to space out? Oh, poor thing.
Admit it, we have all been there! We think we’re listening to our friend talk about her heartbreak, but are we really present throughout the conversation? This is indeed a classic example of how much we humans fail so miserably at active listening.
Often, what we misunderstand about listening is that we equate it to hearing, which is far from accurate. Hearing is just the ability to perceive sounds by detecting the vibrations of the surrounding medium using our ears. While listening, on the other hand, is the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages during communication. Another misconception is that in order to be a great communicator, we only need to be a great speaker. As much as it’s true, listening is equally important as speaking for effective communication to take place.
Actually, it is very hard mainly because we think way faster than we talk. Before your mum could explain thoroughly her encounter with her long-lost friend, your mind would have wandered from the depths of the deepest parts of the oceans to the peaks of Everest, which gives plenty of time for you to become impatient and bored. Thus, it requires much more focus and mental energy than we thought.
Is it possible to hear attentively? Daaa of course!
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Making them feel heard also requires you to be completely present through the conversation. By making adequate eye contact with some non-verbal expressions such as nodding your head, having an open posture, and slightly leaning towards them to show that you’re engaged in whatever the person is discussing can do wonders in making others feel heard. It also portrays that you care about them and value their input.
Although it is encouraged to listen without interruptions, asking questions when the person is done talking is vital in trying to deepen our understanding of the subject matter being discussed. Sometimes when the stories are hard to be followed, just asking questions from time to time can help you clarify things and focus closely. Paraphrasing is when you state back what was said to you using a different set of words and allowing the speaker to agree or disagree. This is to check the accuracy of your understanding of what was being discussed and allow them to clarify further.
Understand that every time someone opens up to us, it means they view conversations with you to be a safe space and deeply trust you as a non-judgemental person. Listening without judgments based on how you view someone or something will not only honour the speaker’s trust but allow you to cut back on your own internal dialogues, which allows you to be more focused and present.
Understanding listening is not as easy as we used to think is where we start. With adequate practice, we can all improve at it with no doubt. Along the way, there will be lots of mistakes, mindless moments, and more internal dialogues; but there will also be plenty of opportunities to incorporate active listening skills. Don’t just hear, listen.