4 Things Great Listeners Do
One of the most important skills you can learn is how to listen properly. This can benefit so many topics ranging from relationships to sales.
Most people listen just for the opening or gaps in dialogue for when they can speak again. But very few people hear, and register, what someone else says.
I was a massive fixer. Especially in relationships. If someone I love came to me with an issue, I always made the mistake of listening to provide a solution immediately. It had good intentions, however, not everyone was actively seeking for me to solve their problems. Sometimes, people just want to vent.
This caused tension in previous romantic relationships that I had. My girl would tell me what was wrong, I’d listen until I knew what the solution was, and then (unintentionally), I’d cut her off and blurt out the fix.
“Well, you just need to do this, this, and this. Problem solved.”
This is not the quality of a good listener.
Listen to Understand
Great listeners listen with one goal in mind: to understand.
I used to think that communication was the most important element for a relationship to succeed. It’s important, however, without comprehension of what the other person is saying, then communication doesn’t matter.
The difference between knowledge and wisdom is understanding. Comprehension allows us to fully understand what another person is experiencing.
Communicating is futile if the recipients don’t get what they’re saying.
Your goal is to comprehend. The best way to problem solve and bring solutions is to understand the pain of another and then do your best to provide the solution. Don’t add to the pain by not being present and not focusing on the person venting.
A great listener realizes that they have two ears and one mouth. Meaning, they listen twice as much as they speak.
When another person is venting to you, be still. Actively hear what they are saying. Nothing drives me crazier than when I am speaking to someone about an issue I’m having and then they cut me off. I have barely gotten my story out and already they’re telling me what to do?
Yes, they might be eager to help and I understand that. However, if I keep trying and they keep interjecting, I just shut down and don’t even try.
It’s not about you. It’s about them and their issue. Feel it. Empathize with it and them. When you feel what state they’re in, you can respond with the greatest response of all time:
Then, you go back to listening.
I used to constantly interject. Thankfully, I’ve learned that doing this was making it about me and not about the person who was hurting.
Many times, when someone is venting to me about a particular issue, I don’t respond at all. I’ll just sit and listen and jump in with, “I get it.” Occasionally, I’ll ask questions to get a better feel for more clarity.
When a person is finished speaking, they normally feel so much better because they were simply seeking to be understood. I didn’t need to say anything!
In fact, I don’t give any real advice unless they ask. Which brings me to my next point.
Put the Phone Away
One of the greatest gifts great listeners can give to another is their undivided attention.
That being said, put the phone away.
Not on the table. Not on the table face down. Away. Put it in your pocket or a bag. If the phone is on the table, notifications will go off distracting you constantly. Even if it’s face down, you’ll subconsciously be thinking about it.
It’s beyond infuriating when someone is pouring their heart out and suddenly the person pretending to listen has to respond to a tweet. Really? ::facepalm::
If you have to leave your phone out for some reason, simply explain to the person venting,
“Hey, I want to be present for you but I’m expecting an important call that I might have to take.”
It’s upfront and respectful.
Look a person in the eye. Focus on them. The more present you are, the better you’ll be able to help. Being present and giving your attention to the person you’re with is unfortunately rare these days.
Not Trying to Solve With Unsolicited Advice
If someone isn’t asking, don’t throw your $0.02 on them.
Have you ever been so angry that you’re venting it out and then someone jumps in saying things like:
“You’re acting crazy.”
“Others out there have it worse than you.”
Even if the above statements are true, you have a right to feel what you’re feeling. The best advice given at the wrong time can have no effect, or even, the opposite effect: making someone feel worse.
I get it, you want to help. You seek to remove the pain of someone you care about. Eventually, you can. But maybe, at that moment in time, they don’t want advice.
A great question to ask the person venting is:
“What do you need right now? Do you want ears for venting, my advice, or do you need a distraction?”
This makes them feel like you truly care and it aligns you with their goal.
Sometimes, people don’t want a therapist. They might want a friend at that moment to watch funny videos and forget. Other times, they might need you to be their personal Oprah.
Regardless, it is about them and not you. If they don’t want your sage-like wisdom, that’s okay. Don’t take it personally. Take it as a compliment that they chose to come to you and open up to you, to begin with. That’s beautiful.
It’s a beautiful thing to help another person. An honor and a privilege.
However, when we do so, we must not jump on them with what we *think* they want. Don’t assume that when you’re in a similar state that another person will want the same thing as you.
When you do listen to someone hurting, keep these four points in mind:
- Listen to understand
- Provide silence
- Put the phone away
- Don’t try to solve with unsolicited advice
The best listeners become what the person needs. That’s how you provide the best solution.