“The first duty of love is to listen” Paul Tillich
If you have read many of our posts, you have figured out that we believe that the foundation of solid dating and relationship success is in giving to your loved one. Each of us starts our lives and grows up wanting things given to us – a bottle, a toy, a smart phone, a car, whatever. Kids are selfish. That’s no criticism. It’s nature. As we grow into adults we realize that we are just wasting air if we don’t contribute while we take. We give and we take. Hopefully, we give more than we take so that the world is better off by our being here. One powerful way to give that costs us nothing is listening to another person. Real listening.
Listening with full attention
I can be good at listening, but often I’m not. I know some pretty good listeners but few who are great at listening with full attention all the time. It’s human nature for our brains to start processing and thinking about what we’re hearing so that we distract ourselves from our focus on listening. We are mentally, and often verbally, responding to what we are hearing before the other person is finished speaking.
One old trick to be a better listener is to mimic back what the speaker is saying, to summarize what you heard. Instead of our brains running down our own rabbit trails, we attempt to stay with the speaker’s trail. It works because it gives our brain the task that supports listening instead of speaking our response. This trick also contributes greatly to better communication because, in addition to better listening, it gives the speaker feedback that allows refinement of the thoughts being communicated.
The easiest way to listen better is to stop talking. Nuf said.
“If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” Mark Twain.
Win Friends and Influence People
My biggest take-away from Dale Carnegie’s classic self-help book is that people find good listeners to be fascinating, interesting people. Why? Because everyone wants to be heard and appreciated, and listeners achieve that and create a bond with the speaker.
Listen with your eyes
Watch the speaker and you will pick up all the non-verbal communication that is often more important than the words being uttered. Also, the speaker will know you are paying attention, and it will help you keep your mind from being distracted. If you are looking at your phone or TV while listening, you give the message that what the person is saying is no more important than your other distractions. Not good.
Use your memory (or forget it)
When I hear something that stimulates a strong idea in my brain, like when I disagree, I have a tendency to jump into the conversation. What if instead I held the thought for later or just let it go? What would I lose? Is it really so important for me to blurt out my thoughts?
Listening is loving
When you listen well you are communicating a powerful message. You are telling the speaker that what they have to say is valuable to you. Most of us don’t get a lot of that. Listening should be appreciated.