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Are You a Good Listener?

We’ve heard the question “Are you listening?” many times since childhood.

But what does that mean exactly? What makes a person a good listener and why is it important?

Effective listening isn’t just hearing and receiving auditory information. It’s a practiced skill that can strengthen and deepen your relationships. Whether it be applied to work or while at home, being a good listener is a helpful skill when trying to resolve conflicts, strengthen empathy, and build connections with others. Good listening skills boost positive interactions with others, leading to a better overall well-being. Here are some tips…

Remove distractions - Let the other person know that you are ready to pay attention to them by demonstrating it through your actions. Put down your phone or stop what you were doing so you can focus on the other person. If it’s noisy, turn down the music or ask to move to a quieter location. This shows that you are engaged—that you really want to listen.

Be present and don’t interrupt- Once distractions are eliminated, pay attention to the conversation by being present. You can effectively do this by making eye contact and using your body language to show that you’re engaged. Lean in physically while being respectful to the other’s personal space. Smile when appropriate or nod in understanding. Don’t try to think of a response or interrupt. Just listen. Pauses in conversation are okay. In fact, it gives the other person time to ensure their thought is complete; if they have anything else to add, they can do so. When talking about emotional topics, those silent pauses are especially helpful for the person you are listening to.

Reflect and ask open-ended questions - When appropriate, let the other person know you’re listening by paraphrasing and asking open-ended questions. This shows that you have an understanding of what is being shared. It also allows you to clarify if you don’t understand certain aspects. Sometimes it’s helpful to summarize what the person said in your own words. If you get it wrong, that’s okay. Ask for more information and try avoiding questions that lead to yes or no answers only.

Resist the urge to problem-solve - Show care and concern by withholding judgment when listening. This can be a difficult thing to do as one often wants to be helpful by offering solutions or feedback. However, sometimes it’s best to simply lend an ear, rather than offering your two cents.

Show acknowledgment and empathy- People feel best when they feel that they have been heard. To achieve this, acknowledge the person’s feelings and point of view.

Even if you don’t agree with them, you can still show that their feelings and opinions are valid. Use statements identifying emotions such as “I can see why that would make you sad” or “How frustrating.” This validates the other person’s feelings; it can go a long way in stressful conversations as well as with people who are hurting.

Practice - Lastly, being a good listener takes practice! These skills are beyond just hearing other people’s words. It’s about understanding other people’s perspectives, recognizing their feelings, and showing that you want to hear what they have to say.

Effective listening is critical in any relationship. It’s important to be a good listener at work and at home with your family. Children, particularly teens, crave validation; they want to feel heard. Being a good listener can really help engage and encourage your children to open up and share more with you.

As we start the new year, make practicing your listening skills a priority. Connection with others is a core element in your well-being and listening is a great step towards strengthening that connection!

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