A well-known phone company commercial asked the question, “Can you hear me now?” Well, being able to physically register sounds is only part of the process. The real question is, “Are you really listening?”

Hearing means sounds bouncing around into your ear canal and the vibrations being translated into signals sent to the brain to be decoded there. Listening means making an effort to hear something. To pay attention. To take an active role and work to capture the full meaning of the message being received. Effective communication requires listening.

It doesn’t seem like it should be that difficult. But I have a teenaged son … and I’ve been married for 16 years. Listening is a valuable skill to be learned and here are a few tips.

  1. Eyes on the speaker equals fewer distractions.
  2. Focus on the full message including non-verbal cues and what you know about the speaker. What are they really trying to say?
  3. Show you are listening with a smile, nod or “uh-huh.”
  4. If you’re getting bored or have a hard time concentrating, mentally repeat the main ideas of what they said.
  5. Give feedback. Paraphrase what they said or ask clarifying questions to confirm your understanding.
  6. Defer judgment. Let the speaker finish. Don’t interrupt with counter-arguments.
  7. Respond respectfully. Even if you disagree, you should be kind.

Bottom line? It’s essential that we listen with our hearts and show that we value the person who’s talking. When we really listen, it lays the foundation for healthy relationships.

And who knows, it may even rub off on the teenagers in the house!

What about you? What distracts or frustrates you in conversations? Are you a good listener? Do you know someone who really listens? Any additional tips to share?

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