Active Listening for Powerful Results

In our rush to fit more into every area of our lives, including our conversations, we stop listening and instead finish off each other’s sentences, paraphrase each other’s words, moan, interrupt, get irritated, give advice, jump in to try to solve each other’s problems or allow ourselves to get distracted. As a result our conversations are hurried and fragmented.

One of the most powerful things you can do for yourself, your partner, your friends, colleagues and children is to actively listen – it has the power to transform your relationship with yourself, at home and with those at work.

Top tips to improve your listening

1. Begin by listening to yourself and honouring your needs. Give yourself what you need. Nourish and nurture yourself. Create an environment for yourself that says ‘you matter’. In doing these things for yourself, you permit others to do the same for themselves. By truly valuing yourself, you automatically start valuing others. Your interactions with others will also improve as a result.

In listening to your own feelings and acknowledging them you will find it easier to acknowledge the feelings of others. Allow other people to release their emotions in your presence. Thinking can be restored when given the space for sufficient emotional release.

When someone verbally expresses a feeling to you, like anger, fear, sadness, or joy – reflect back to them that you have acknowledged it – e.g., ‘sounds like you’re angry about x’ or ‘looks like you are really excited about y’.

2. Relax into your conversations with others. Let go of any sense of rush. Stay gently focused on the moment and give your undivided attention to what the other person has to say. In doing this you will find that the other person is able to state what they want to say more clearly and concisely .

3. Treat others as your equal, regardless of hierarchy – even with children. This improves the quality of the attention you are able to give to the other person and fosters respect and intelligibility so that any tendency towards infantalisation or assumed superiority is removed.

4. Give people a chance: Rather than jumping in to give someone your advice or trying to solve their ‘problems’, give people a chance to find their own solutions. Ask them questions to help them think. Encourage them to think for themselves.

5. Foster hope: Permit yourself to become fascinated by what others have to say. Don’t interrupt or humiliate. Allow people to share their true thoughts and feelings with you without cynicism. Respect their dreams. Encourage them to dream.

6. Give genuine praise - Tell people the things you like about them, their ideas, their work – if you are giving constructive feedback to someone apply a 5:1 ratio of positive-to-negative criticism. Allow the one area for improvement to be the thing that, if improved, would positively affect everything else. People think more creatively in a context of genuine praise.

7. Be open and honest – with yourself and with others. This will improve your ability to listen and to overcome challenges. Often facing something you’ve been denying can unblock stifled energy and lead to creative genius.

Follow Jayne Morris on Twitter: www.twitter.com/burnoutexpert

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