How often do you genuinely listen to others? When someone tries to talk to you about something difficult they’re going through, do you avoid the conversation? This may be a sign that your listening skills are not exactly up to par, which can make it harder to connect with others.
Being a good listener is an essential communication skill and the cornerstone of any kind of relationship, but most people just pretend to listen. What they’re actually doing is waiting for their conversation partners to stop talking so they can deliver whatever line they’ve been rehearsing in their heads. This is usually noticeable, and it doesn’t feel good.
In this article, we will discuss what it takes to become a genuinely supportive listener and, as a result, build stronger relationships.
Listening Is a Powerful Skill
We live in a world that encourages self-centeredness, and we’ve been conditioned to love the sound of our own voices. Whether online or IRL, we like to talk about ourselves and whatever trivial achievements we’ve managed to attain on any given day. This can lead to narcissistic tendencies that make us fall in love with our own opinions and lose some of our innate abilities to bond with others, leaving us with a painful sense of emptiness and isolation that we try to fill with more trivial achievements and self-aggrandizing.
This is why simply learning how to really listen can have such a powerful effect on your life. When you make someone feel heard, you’re essentially creating a space for them to express themselves, and you’re allowing yourself to discover who they are beyond the superficial, obvious layers.
In the long run, not only will this help you build stronger relationships, but you’ll gain a greater understanding of what motivates and drives people as well as what it takes to build and maintain trust in relationships.
By learning how to be a good listener, you can avoid misunderstandings, show others that you care about them, read between the lines, and better recognize people’s state of mind and respond appropriately.
Much of the anxiety and loneliness we experience today is because we are losing our ability to listen. We’re too focused on ourselves to be present. Bonding with others and creating trusting, supportive relationships would remove some of our anxieties and make us better able to cope with stress, but the problem is that we’ve become so set in our ways that genuinely listening to someone and connecting with them can even make us feel anxious.
You’ll notice at the beginning that you feel uncomfortable being in conversations that go beyond the superficial level. In that case, try some natural stress relief products like the ones you’ll find at Organic CBD Nugs and hang in there. We promise you it will be worth it.
How to Listen
Active listening is a form of listening that keeps you positively engaged with your conversation partner. You listen to them carefully and reflect back on what they’re telling you without judging them or giving advice. This makes the other person feel heard and valued and is the key to any constructive dialogue.
It’s a communication technique first developed for psychotherapy, counseling, and mediation.
When you’re practicing passive listening, you hear what the other person is saying, but you don’t really take in what they’re trying to communicate because you’re not fully engaged. In contrast, an active listener focuses on the speaker, takes in their message, and responds thoughtfully, without judgment.
To do this, you have to let yourself be 100% with them and give them a safe space to express themselves, validate their message and make them feel heard and understood.
Focus on your conversation partner
During a conversation, you’ll notice that your mind tends to wander off. This is natural. It doesn’t mean that you’re self-centered, so you don’t have to feel bad about it. It happens because our brains can process the information we hear faster than we can put our thoughts and feelings into words.
This is why you’ll often feel like you already know what the people want to say before they’ve had a chance to finish their sentences and you may feel tempted to interrupt them.
It’s important to be aware of this tendency and to control the impulse. Your predictions will not always be correct. You may be able to guess where the sentence was going, but not what the other person is really trying to tell you, and by interrupting, you’re discouraging them from sharing.
Just be there with them and let them vent their feelings. Resist interrupting them to say “I understand” or to offer unsolicited advice.
Reflect back on what you’re hearing
Instead of interrupting them with unsolicited advice, simply reflect back on what you’re hearing. First, you have to make sure they’ve finished talking. Many people are afraid of silence in a conversation and feel the need to respond immediately. But silence is not a bad thing. It shows that you want to give them a chance to elaborate on what they’ve just said or that you’re collecting your thoughts. Most importantly, it shows that you were really listening and not just thinking of something to say.
Knowing that when it’s your turn to speak, all you have to do is to summarize and repeat what you understood will make it much easier to shut down your inner monologue because there’s no longer any pressure to come up with something to say. It also gives you a chance to pay attention to non-verbal cues like facial expression and tone of voice so you can pick up on what the other person might be feeling but isn’t saying.
Validate their feelings
When someone is talking to you about their personal challenges, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they want you to give them a solution. It’s more likely that they trust you enough to be this open. What they want is to feel heard and know that you care about them. To honor their trust, acknowledge and validate their feelings by saying something like: “I can see how that would make you feel…” and the emotion you think they may be experiencing.