Have you ever had a response from someone that made you wonder if they listened to a single word you had just said?
Or, have you been involved in a discussion where everyone was talking, and no one was listening?
I’m sure you can think of at least one occasion.
Often, we listen in order to reply, not to understand. When someone is telling us something we are thinking about how we will respond. Particularly if we hold a strong opinion or belief on the matter.
What if we took the time to listen to understand? Wouldn’t it be better to fully understand the other person’s perspective before expressing our own? How would this impact your conversations and relationships at home and work?
Effective interactions with people come about from first working to understand their perspective, and then helping them to understand yours.
The key to understanding people is through empathetic listening.
Listening with the intent to understand the other person’s perspective. This gives you the most useful information to work with as you interact with them. It helps you understand others' feelings and views about a particular situation as opposed to your own version of it.
Failing to listen empathically leads us to listen autobiographically. Big word I know…
This basically means we interpret everything we hear through the lens of our own beliefs and experiences. We then deliver responses from our perspective which is not very useful for the other person.
When the person recognises that you’re genuinely trying to understand them, they will be more inclined to trust you and open up further. This strengthens the connection between you and the other person which further facilitates a productive interaction.
By listening empathically, you help the other person feel heard and understood. Once they feel heard and understood, they are more inclined to hear your perspective. Now you have the groundwork from which you can find a solution.