The Art of Listening

June 22, 2017
Gulrukh Tausif

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By: Gulrukh Tausif

We seem to live in an era where everyone wants to be heard but few are willing to listen. All through the day, we meet many people and hear them talk but how much do we actually listen to them? Listening is much more than just using the ears to hear what the other person is saying. Listening involves our ears, eyes, mind, undivided attention and even our heart.

The ability to truly listen to someone is a skill that is very important and is becoming increasingly rare. Parents should be able to listen to their children, workplace listening skills are crucial for success at work, students must be able to listen to their teachers to fully comprehend the lecture. Married couples need excellent listening skills to make their marriage work.

In fact in all fields of life we must be able to listen, and not just hear, in order to have better relationships, successful careers and foster closer friendships.

Here are a few tips to listen better:

Give undivided attention:

When someone talks to you, clear all matters from the mind so that you give the speaker your full and undivided attention. When your daughter comes up to discuss a school project, this is definitely not the best time to check emails, Whatsapp messages or trends in stock exchange market. Try to maintain eye contact but do not make the other person uncomfortable. Concentrate on the words and do not let your attention wander.

Use your eyes:

Observe the speaker and discover things he is not saying while speaking. The speaker’s body language, eye movements, facial expressions, gestures and posture can tell you a lot of things that might not be getting conveyed via words.

If you ask your son “How was school?”, he might answer “Great” but if you really listen to him and observe his facial expressions, you might find that what he is saying and what he is feeling are two different things. Younger children might say “fine” but sometimes their lips quiver and they have tears in their eyes which will tell you that something is definitely awry. If you just hear the words and not listen to them, you might miss important clues to what is really going on in their life.

Parents have to be expert to listen to the things their children are not saying. But this is equally important for all other personal and professional relationships too.

Make the environment conversation-friendly:

If there is lots of background noise or other distractions, move to a more suitable place. During a party or noisy family gathering, someone close to you wishes to talk about relationship issues, suggest that you move to a quieter place where you can talk without interruption or danger of being overheard. In school or workplace, any serious issue should be discussed in a quiet and private environment. Keep other people’s secrets and do not use it as material for gossip and slander.

Don’t interrupt:

Don’t interrupt while the person is speaking. If there is a pause, add your comment or question to keep the conversation going. Many people just cannot remain silent during a conversation and are more interested in giving out their own response or verdict than understanding the core issue.

In our part of the world especially if someone wants to discuss their health problem or family issue, other people immediately start talking about their own health problems and family issues. This gives the impression that what the other person is saying is trivial or unimportant.

To ensure that you are getting the drift, summarize the situation periodically with words like, “Let’s see if I got this right,” or “So what you are saying is…”

If you are listening to a complicated problem, long lecture or even discussing problems with family members, jot down main points for future reference.

Show genuine interest:

Use gestures to show that you are listening intently to what the other person has to say. Nod your head, ask questions, smile or frown to show empathy. While dealing with children it is best to allow them to get everything off their chest before showing any reaction or passing judgment. Words like “How can you be so stupid?” or “I can’t believe you are such an idiot,” will effectively put an end to any honest tête-à-tête. Listen with the intent to understand and not just put a show of hearing.

In words of Rachel Naomi Remen, “The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen.  Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.”

Comments and feedback: gtausif@gmail.com