The Art of Listening Part II – Keep it Simple

shh-time-to-listen2Shhh… What do you hear?

As I sit writing, I hear birds chirping, an airplane overhead and the dull buzz of the refrigerator. It’s actually quiet in my home at the moment, so I am having to concentrate, tune-in and even work hard to hear the sounds.

It’s just the same with people. In order to really hear someone, it takes work. It takes tuning-in and concentrating on the person, what they are saying, what they are not saying and how they are saying it.

And the hard work of listening is worth the effort as our relationships are strengthened and we become more effective mentors, coaches, counselors, parents, spouses and friends.

Here are 5 simple principles that can improve your listening quickly:

Prepare Yourself
As I mentioned in my last blog, The Art of Listening, we must first look to matters of the heart before we look to matters of technique. When our hearts are God-focused, we become others-focused and not self-focused.

Before making that phone call or having a face-to-face conversation, prepare your heart and mind for listening. Let it be about her and not about you.

Don’t Talk
That’s pretty simple! Just… don’t talk.

Allow her to fluidly express her heart, thoughts and ideas. Do not interrupt, finish sentences or interject with questions or comments. Through a steady flow of continuous, undisturbed speaking, she will relax, process and make new discoveries.

One more thing… resist the urge to speak when she becomes silent. Often she will have something else to say if given the opportunity. Read more about silence in my blog Silence is Golden.

Selfless listening requires rigorous self-management. As we listen, we are bombarded with our own thoughts, opinions and emotions or may notice background sights and sounds. We must battle to tune-out all distractions and tune-in to what is being expressed.

Observe Non-Verbals
We hear so much more when we listen beyond the spoken word.

What is her body language saying? What is her face expressing? Where is she looking? How is she sitting? She will express an abundance through her body.

Surprisingly, non-verbals can be observed while talking on the phone. If you really listen, you will hear variations in her volume, energy and speed of communication indicating her level of interest, passions and emotions.

Respond Thoughtfully
Having allowed fluid, continuous expression with moments of silence, then… feel free to speak. But, when you do, respond thoughtfully. Ask curious questions, share your excitement or compassion and affirm areas of growth.

Which principle would help you to be a better listener? Which would you like to focus on this week?