Do you remember that saying “Before I can walk in another’s shoes, I must first remove my own?” Communication is the deepest need of the human heart and soul. Everyone wants to be respected and valued for who they are. If you want someone to open up to you, they need to feel safe and understood.
The number one thing you need to do is to listen. Most people have poor listening skills though. When people are talking we seldom listen because we are busy thinking about how we will respond. These are the most common poor listening styles:
· Spacing out: the typical adult human’s attention span is about 20 minutes, but if they aren’t hooked, spacing out can be a problem. You need to actively listen to people to keep your mind on what they are saying.
· Pretend listening: Some people make comments like “yeah” or “sounds great” when all along they still aren’t listening.
· Selective listening: This is when you pay attention only to the part that interests you. This won’t win you any lasting relationships!
· Self-centered listening: This happens when we see everything from our own point of view instead of trying to understand how the person feels.
· Judging: Sometimes, as we listen to others, we make judgments about them and what they are saying. If you are busy judging, you are not really listening are you?
· Advising: This is when we give advice drawn from our own experience – they typical “When I was your age…” speech you get from your elders.
First listen with your eyes, heart and ears. Listening with your ears alone isn’t good enough, because you typically only pick up 7% of what is being said. The rest comes from body language (53%) and the tone or feeling reflected in our voice (40%).
To hear what people are really saying, you need to listen to what they are not saying. No matter how hard people appear on the surface, everyone is tender inside and has a desperate need to be understood.
Second, stand in their shoes. To become a genuine listener, you need to put yourself in the other persons place.
Third, practice mirroring. This is very effective. Repeat back in your own words what you here the other person saying. Mirroring phrases are “As I get it, you felt that…” or “So, what you’re saying is…”
After you have mastered actively listening to a person, you are half the way to a great communicator. Next, seek to be understood. Giving feedback requires that you first understand the person and then you can get your message across to them in a way they will understand.