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Good listening skills

When talking about listening skills, the well-known speaker and author Stephen R. Covey once said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” This will match many people’s experience of listening skills where they feel misunderstood and find themselves defending a position rather than discussing or gaining deeper insight.

Why are listening skills so useful?

Listening at any time is important but, good listening skills develop that a little further and make sure that you strive to really understand the other person. Good listening skills are about more than hearing and decoding the language, they are about getting to the intent and the meaning behind what the person is saying. So often with listening skills the most important thing in a conversation is what is not being said; and you have to try very hard to hear it.

You may have a family member of a friend who is having troubled times who needs to talk through what is happening to them. They may want to talk about their feelings and their thoughts. Helping them by understanding will make a huge difference. It might be in your own relationship. Perhaps there are problems or issues yet again by both of you employing good listening skills you can really begin to have empathy for the other’s point of view. Through this you can come up with solutions which were impossible before. Even in your everyday work and life you will find that good listening skills serve you well and help you to have more fulfilling relationships and friendships.

What are these mysterious listening skills and how do they differ from the listening that you have been doing all your life?

First all of the normal things that you have been doing you should keep doing. So looking at the person and maintaining eye contact. Adopting an open body position and being relaxed all help you listen better. While these might be difficult in a relationship fight, you should be able to manage them to some degree.

You need to listen to what the person says and keep an open mind. Very often they may say something you disagree with, or something that you find hurtful or unfair, but jumping in or interrupting will be unhelpful. It sends the message that you are not prepared to listen through to the conclusion of their argument or that you don’t care what they think, or perhaps worst of all that it isn’t  a discussion but a competition about who can shout loudest.

That of course does not mean you cannot ask questions if you do not understand or want to clarify a point. Wait till your partner pauses then pose your question. For example: “Can I just check, you are upset that it is my mother that you feel criticises you the most?” Notice that the question as well as helping you understand, shows that you are using your listening skills to understand them.

Giving feedback as the speaker is talking is also important so nodding or small verbal communications is important like, “I see”.

Having listened to your partner you are now entitled to put your point of view and are allowed to be shown the same courtesy of listening skills in return.

Employing these simple steps will make a big difference to any relationship and your ability to help and support people in turmoil.

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