“MOST PEOPLE DO NOT LISTEN WITH THE INTENT TO UNDERSTAND; THEY LISTEN WITH THE INTENT TO REPLY.”
ARE YOU A GOOD LISTENER?
What makes a “good” listener, anyway?
Most of us gauge our listening prowess by how we respond. We are the “tough love” friend that always says the things we think someone needs to hear. Or the empathetic friend that always says the things we think someone wants to hear.
We dole out suggestions and solutions to be helpful, or fuel their fire with an abundance of validation.
With the best of intentions, we approach the art of listening like a game of gym class dodgeball: If we get picked first for the team or score the most points, we’re golden.
How we respond matters, but not as much as we think.
The listening process can be broken into five stages:
THE HEARING (RECEIVING)
THE COMPREHENSION (UNDERSTANDING)
THE PROCESSING (EVALUATING)
THE REACTING (RESPONDING)
THE CATEGORIZING (REMEMBERING)
Each stage is informed by verbal and non-verbal cues from the person speaking — their tone and body language are as significant as their word choice.
How we understand and process all that is also informed by us — our own temperament, life experiences, and intentions.
The overlap of all these factors makes the act of communicating quite the dance (and at times, Trigger City).
What makes us a good listener is not our ability to respond in the expected or most appropriate way, but our ability to comprehend and process what someone else is saying without our own stuff getting in the way.
When we can do that, communication becomes a means of experiencing the kind of deep, soulful connection we need to live a well life.
Dr. John Gottman, the famed relationship expert, has a rule about intimate conversation: Understanding must precede advice.
So what does it mean to understand? It means that we can see the person before us clearly enough that what they’re saying makes sense. If it doesn’t make sense, we ask questions until it does.
Empathy doesn’t require agreement, only understanding.
You could say that listening is just the act of registering words, and hearing is the act of letting them in. Once they’re in, what you do with them is what determines what kind of listener you really are.
To listen for deeper connection we don’t have to respond right or well or even at all. We just have to, for a moment, witness someone else in all their truth and let it make perfect sense.
Originally published at www.besteas.co