Throughout every avenue in our life, communication plays an important role. Most issues that come up in our daily life are messy and complicated. It's pretty unusual that we have an easy resolution for the majority of life problems and when one is resolved often times it seems another one just takes its place. Everyone has a different side to their story and a reasoning for their behavior - especially when it conflicts with your own. Being able to take the time to fully understand what they are communicating is the best way to understand what we are confronting. If you'd like to become a better listener, try out these tips:
1. Stop interrupting. For many, the biggest challenge can be resisting the urge to interrupt. It can be difficult to remain stay quiet and listen but interrupting gives the speaker the sense of invalidation. By letting someone speak freely, you are allowing them to feel more comfortable in the conversion and it invites them to open up to you even more. If you are waiting for the person to stop talking for your own turn to speak, chances are you are not truly listening. Let go of your need to talk and truly be present for their spoken words. If you find that the urge is irresistible, take a deep breath and relax. Your time to speak will come. By actively and truly listening to what someone else is saying, we are sending the message that we are invested and we care about the issue.
2. Be curious. To build listening skills within the context of relationship conflicts or arguments, try to be curious rather than defensive. Instead of thinking defensive thoughts about the issue at hand, try thinking about the source of their action. Why does something you've done make them so upset? Have they felt this way before? What do they need to be comforted? This creates empathy and a better understanding of the other persons feelings. It also validates the other person's emotions by keeping the focus on them, rather than drawing it towards yourself with reactive or argumentative statements. This validation will help keep your arguments reconciliatory in nature rather than explosive.
3. Demonstrate focus. One key to demonstrate active listening is making the other person feel that you are invested and connected in the moment. Put your smartphone away, turn off the TV, and maintain eye contact. Be open about your limitations to be attentive. If you have had a long day or its a busy moment for you, relay that. There is nothing wrong with asking to speak about this at another time to ensure that they have your undivided attention. Just ensure to circle back at that better moment and let that person know you are ready to hear them.
4. Repeat back what is being said. I'm sure you have heard to repeat back what someone is saying, and there is quite a bit of truth in that. There are so many instances in which I think I am on the same page as someone and by clarifying that, I realize there is still a disconnect. Make sure you are understanding exactly what someone is saying by summarizing it back to them. This ensures that their point has gotten across correctly and shows that you have listened.
Whether it be building better communication with a friend, family member, coworker, or with a loved one, learning to listen is a valuable skill within all relationships. It takes practice and patience but the pay off is well worth the effort.
Do you have trouble communication effectively in your relationships? Give me call to find out how my mental health services can help at (813) 340-6955.