This month we’re focusing on relationships. Coincidentally, our sense of the month is hearing. Most people can hear just fine, but listening…well, that’s another story. Listening to the people we’re closest to can be even harder, because we’re so used to hearing their voices and we tend to tone them out. Listening is a skill. And just like any other skill, mastering it takes plenty of practice and patience.
Here are a few things to try the next time you’re trying to have a conversation with someone you care about:
Be present – It’s so easy to be distracted by everything going on around you—the TV, your beeping phone, other people, etc. Put away the phone (silence it if you have to). Turn off the tube. Stop multi-tasking. Most of listening has to do with just being there, both in body and in mind.
Be engaging – When you’re talking with someone, make plenty of eye contact. Lean in to show you’re interested. Try not to make any bad faces and nod when appropriate. Show the person you’re listening, and give them your complete attention.
Be thoughtful – Too many times, instead of really listening, we’re just waiting for our turn to speak. After the person is done talking, really think about what they’ve said. Don’t just rattle off your own opinions or start giving them advice. Show some understanding of what they just told you and then ask some corresponding questions.
Being a good listener and friend is one of the best gifts you can give someone. It’s such an important job, and a lot of times it’s easy to forget just how important it is. Personally, I know I’ll be working on this one for sure!