How to listen

Posted on Jan 3, 2013 in Self Help |

How to listen

Many people can be described as good listeners. They naturally have the skills learned by counsellors. If you would like to improve your listening skills here are some ideas.

Before we start you will need to recognise that it is hard to listen and respond to the pain of others who are suffering. You will naturally want to do what you can to reduce their pain. This means that you might find yourself offering advice, telling them what you would do and suggesting solutions. Alternatively you might suggest that they have got it wrong, out of perspective or are over-reacting.

When you really listen to someone you stop anything you else you are doing and give the person your full attention. You face them and you keep eye contact, as you listen to what they say and how they say it. You are alert and interested. However to be a good listener you will also be responsive to the person and what they are saying. In particular, when you listen you will also help the other person in the following ways:

When we listen – we stay with the person at their pace. It’s important not to rush in with your own ideas and suggestions. You are just listening, gathering information and asking for clarification if you don’t understand. People who are upset or angry often need your help to slow down, which helps them to process what is happening.

When we listen – the person hears their story. You help by allowing the story to be told and encouraging all the details. This helps the person to make sense of their narrative.

When we listen not knowing the answer – the person can find their own answers. Exploring the story with someone else acting as a sounding board, helps to clarify and understand the problem.

When we listen without giving advice – the person can search for their own solution. You can help by allowing them to work through different ideas about how to solve a problem. This empowers them to find the solution that will work best for them.

When we listen without judgement – the person can use their own judgement. You can help by allowing them to express their own judgements, and asking them to look at the evidence for if they are true.

When it hurts to listen – the person can feel they are not alone. You can give them the emotional support they need.

It’s not always easy to listen. To be a good listener you need a little time and patience, a little understanding and empathy, a little kindness and compassion, but most of all you need to be willing to try.