Much of our world today is focused on self-expression. We want to feel heard and validated for our opinions, thoughts, and ideology. And today’s technology has given us a platform to do it. In all of the talking and sharing, however, many of us have stopped hearing one another. It may be time for many of us to learn how to be a better listener.
While it’s tempting to respond immediately to what someone else says, pause instead. Take time to think about what was said or shared. This is especially important if the conversation is tense or emotionally charged. Taking a breath and counting to ten will allow you to respond more rationally rather than react impulsively. Pausing works equally well for online and in-person interactions and is a critical foundation as you’re learning how to be a better listener.
The art of empathy is being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes or see life through someone else’s lens. No one sees the world just like you do and recognizing this helps you broaden your acceptance of different perspectives and opinions. Remind yourself that you often see only a small part of someone else’s life and remember there’s more to their story than what you see, no matter how well you think you know someone. Practicing empathy will lead you to be a better listener and improve your relationships.
In preparation for her book “Listen Like You Mean It,” author Ximena Vengoechea learned that being aware of yourself in a conversation is as important as listening to the words and body language of the other person during your dialogue. Recognizing how you respond to criticism or trigger words or what makes us tune out is an important skill to help you become a better listener. Without good self-awareness, we will never be the listener we’d like to be.
Know Your Default
A more specific nauce of good self-awareness is identifying your conversational default modes. For example, do you show up to solve problems or to mediate the conversation? When you’re aware of how you instinctively present yourself in a conversation, you will be better at tempering that behavior when needed. When you catch yourself in default mode, ask the other person what they need from you to demonstrate better empathy and understanding.
Ask a Question
Keep conversations flowing by asking great questions. To be a better listener, show interest in the person in front of you, whether online or in-person. In doing so, you will strengthen the relationship and build trust as you show genuine investment and curiosity. You open the door to better mutual understanding as you consider other perspectives and deepen your knowledge or one another.
If you are interested in learning how to be a better listener, try one of our suggestions the next time you’re in a conversation. See how you just might build a few more bridges and narrow the divide between people and ideas.