5 Ways to Truly Listen

by Jennifer Haynie @JenniferHaynie1

I’d hit a crisis point. Two years ago, some goings-on at work had turned me into knots. I didn’t know what to do, and I really needed to unburden myself. That night as we ate supper, my husband Steve could tell I was in distress. After we cleared away the dishes, he pulled out his chair, sat down, and said, “Tell me what’s going on.” For the next half hour, he truly listened.

Hearing and listening are two very different things. Hearing is one of the five senses. Listening is an action and takes a lot of work. But something happens when people take the time to listen. The one airing his or her troubles feels a little more understood and maybe more at peace. Problems don’t seem as insurmountable. And maybe peace comes.

How can we all become better listeners? Here are five ways I’ve learned over the years.

Put away all electronic devices. The radio, television, and phones have no place in a conversation where someone needs to share what is burdening them. Silence them or turn them off. Better yet, put phones away. The person unburdening themselves is much more important than the latest text or newsfeed. When we talked, Steve had no phone near him or television on.

Put away preconceived replies. One of the marked differences between hearing and listening is the presence of a pre-formed answer. The person needing a good ear may have brought up the same topic several times before, but each time is a new time. Still, the temptation remains to fabricate a reply in our heads. When that happens, we aren’t listening, and it’s obvious.

Listen with your entire being. This can be hard for a lot of people. But I think it’s so crucial. Making eye contact lets the person know we’re there and present for them and care. Body language that is open and leaning toward the person indicates a willing listener. Steve’s body language during our discussion told me that he cared. He leaned forward. He made eye contact. He wasn’t constantly in motion.

Validate people. Sometimes, when someone needs to unburden themselves, the best thing to do is to validate their feelings. All of us have worries and concerns, and nothing hurts more than to be brushed off by someone saying we shouldn’t feel that way or that we’re off base with our concerns. We do have rights to our feelings and thoughts. During our conversation, Steve didn’t brush off thoughts I had that might have seemed out there to the mere observer. Instead, he simply held his tongue and acknowledged my concerns. I left that conversation feeling better about myself.

Expect to be tired. Listening is hard work. Truly, it is. It takes mental capacity and stamina. My hat is off the therapists who listen day in and day out to clients. But they do it for a reason. They want their clients to feel validated. And when we listen to friends who are unburdening themselves, we know that maybe they don’t feel as alone as they first did.

As for my conversation with Steve? It helped me immensely as I returned to work day after day and faced the same situation. I walked away with a new appreciation for true listening. Since then, I’ve been able to carry it forward not only in my personal life but my work life as well.

When we truly listen to people, they can find peace in knowing that they aren’t alone when facing their problems. #listening #authenticity #encouragement Click To Tweet

Question: When was a time when someone truly listened to you, and how did you feel afterward?

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