I have always thought of myself as a good listener. Imagine the day I realized I actually wasn’t.
It was perhaps a year ago while reading a book on communication when I realized the truth. I was a horrible listener. No wonder I felt dissatisfied with how many conversations went. And, I realized this was also the basis for why I felt so unlistened to.
For many years, I thought I had to talk to be heard. Now I know I need to listen to be heard. When you listen well you establish deeper friendships and trust. You become a person other people want to be around. You will have opportunity to share your own struggles if you have practiced good listening skills yourself.
Here are six tips on becoming a listening ninja which I have been practicing. My life has become fuller and richer because of it.
1. Multitasking while listening makes you a non-listening ninja
True listening takes energy and focus. You can’t fully listen to anyone while watching TV or cleaning the kitchen. Stop what you are doing, turn and face the person you are listening to. Look at them, and take the time to listen.
This means more to people than you would ever think! It means you are their priority. It means, “I love you and I am willing to stop what I am doing to listen to you.”
If you can’t listen fully for some reason, say, “I would love to hear more about what you are saying, can we talk more about it this evening?” Than make sure to reinitiate the conversation. Forgetting this would simply instill the idea that you truly don’t care.
2. Listen without inserting an opinion
Many times while listening, I am tempted to interject my opinion. This is not a good idea. If they want my opinion, they can ask for it. Otherwise, imposing my opinion upon them before they are ready to hear it is useless.
It will only make them feel frustrated and misunderstood. You have to completely hear someone out before they are willing to listen to you. So stop interrupting with your own scenario and simply listen!
Even relaying a similar story is interrupting. Let the person talk. There will be a time and place that is appropriate for your story.
3. Stop slapping faces
Have you ever had someone you love share something with you which is upsetting? Have you found yourself immediately jumping all over them, scolding them for what they did rather than thanking them for opening up to you?
I have, and it is not effective.
Even if what they did was hurtful, it is like a slap in the face if you turn around and scold them for sharing it with you.
What they did can be addressed later. First take the time to thank them for sharing what was on their mind and heart.
People won’t open up if it is not a safe place to do so. Make yourself a safe place and people will open up to you. Thank them for sharing; it may have been really hard for them to do so. This way, you create a safe place for them to share again.
4. Silence is golden
When listening, it is often the silence which is most precious. Silence allows the person who is talking to actually speak. Stop trying to finish their sentences or rush them. Let the person you are listening to get their words out at their own pace. Simply nodding your head or saying nothing is often better than words.
Silence is a wonderful thing! Most are uncomfortable with it and try to fill it. Silence allows the person who is speaking to feel totally comfortable. They will then be able to get their thoughts out more completely rather than feeling rushed or interrupted.
Silence is indeed golden.
5. Open-ended questions are a beautiful thing
I used to think I had to solve other people’s problems for them. Now I know I just need to listen and allow them to solve their own problems. Asking good questions helps this process.
Questions are a great way to better understand what someone is trying to say. It allows them to expand and gain greater clarity into what they are actually thinking.
Many people process while talking or writing. When I write, I need to get all the jumbled confusing stuff out of the way so I can actually start writing about what is on my heart. To do this, I just write random words, whatever pops into my mind.
People will also talk in this manner without realizing it. The words come pouring out and they often talk about things which are not the real issue on their mind or heart.
Asking open-ended questions is like using a cattle chute. It is a clear way of getting where you want to go both for the listener and the talker.
Here are some examples of open-ended questions:
“How does that make you feel?”
“Interesting, can you tell me more?”
“What happened next?”
“What are you going to do?”
There are so many, but using “how” or “what” is a good start to an open-ended question. It allows the person to expand without using a yes or no answer.
6. Stop talking negatively about other people
If you talk about other people in a negative way, you become a big red “do not enter” sign. Hearing you talk negatively about someone else makes you the last person someone would want to open up to.
Choose to talk positively about people even if you don’t feel positive. You are only harming your own reputation by putting someone else down.
Become a safe haven for others to talk to by becoming a person who is trustworthy. Establish trust and people will want to talk to you.
So, there you have it! Six ways to become a listening ninja!
If you want to read more on the topic of listening I would suggest these books.
- How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- The Best Kept Secrets of Great Communicators by Peter Thomson (audio)
Question: How did you feel the last time you were talking to a listening ninja?