Listening is a vital part of communication and often we may be accused of not listening. While hearing is an involuntary, physical act, listening requires much more. Basically it is hearing and combining psychological involvement with the person who is talking. True listening requires concentration and energy, setting aside our own thoughts and agendas and also not making judgements or evaluations.
Effective listening involves the following:-
- VERBAL MESSAGERS – attention to the words used
- PARAVERBAL MESSAGERS- attention to how they are said
- NONVERBAL MESSAGES-the body language of the speaker.
Some basic principles for effective listening that will help the speaker feel listened to:
- Stop talking – don’t talk, listen to what they are saying, do not interrupt, talk over them or finish their sentences for them. Men in particular are fixers, we want to jump in with our best solutions when all that is wanted is for us to just listen.
- Prepare to listen – clearing your mind of all the other thoughts that can easily distract you helps to concentrate on the speaker.
- Encourage the speaker – nodding, maintaining eye contact (without staring) or words helps the speaker to feel at ease and encourages them to continue and shows you are interested.
- Focus – remove distractions like TV or other noises. A relaxed environment will help.
- Empathise – be open minded. Let go of preconceived ideas which helps to empathise with the speaker. Acknowledge a different point of view using statements like “I can understand how you may feel that way but this is how I feel about ……”
- Patience – allow the speaker to formulate what it is they want to say. A pause of any length doesn’t mean the speaker has finished. Sometimes they may be having difficulty expressing their thoughts. Let them continue in their own time without interrupting.
- Avoid prejudice – it can be easy to become irritated by the persons mannerisms like stuttering, accent, constant fidgeting or pacing while talking. Everyone has a different way of speaking. Concentrate on what is being said and try to ignore the style of delivery.
- Be reflective – re-stating the speaker’s words into your own words seeks to clarify what was said and also shows you are listening and are interested. Reflecting how they may be feeling also does the same ie. “I can see you are frustrated about………” Summarizing the conversation in your own words.
- Watch for the non-verbals – noticing inconsistencies between the verbal and non-verbal messages. Body language can reveal more than words, you may be listening to someone articulating that all is well but his body language of gritted teeth or tears welling in his eyes tells a different story.
When people talk, listen completely. Sometimes just listening effectively is what is required without jumping in to solve a problem.
Tim and the Team
The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401
Phone: 08 9690 2277