Have you ever been in a conversation, but not really in the conversation? Physically you are there, however, there are a million things swirling around in your head, preventing you from being 100% tuned in. You are not alone, all 7.6Billion people in the world struggle with the same thing.
Largely, we consider ourselves open-minded and objective, however, in reality, we have a subconscious filter that we “listen” through. This filter gives us the belief that we already know and have the answers. When listening from already knowing, we don’t realize our subconscious goal to Look Good or Avoid Looking Bad.
What’s listening from already knowing?
Listening from already knowing is how we approach our thoughts, our circumstances, and that of others using opinions we aren’t aware of. We each have a built-in filter that is obscured by pre-existing notions and ideas from our childhoods, our values, our past experiences. And this filter is applied to our conversations, experiences, and people.
Personally, I used to swim in the sea of my thoughts; thoughts of what I have to do or haven’t done while doing my best to speak louder than the negative voice telling me a variation of “you’re not good enough.” I would approach conversations as if I already knew what they were going to say and how they were going to say it, prepared to help, solve and resolve everything for the person I was “listening” to. Unfortunately, this preconceived listening caused me to miss the point most of the time. When people wanted only a listening ear, I had already lined up solutions to what I thought was a problem.
How to listen effectively ?
The first step to listening more effectively is to become attuned to when you are in the world of perspective.
I won’t lie, this takes quite a bit of effort. In every conversation, you will have to reconnect multiple times, because our brains will drift off. As soon as you catch yourself drifting off, implement Mel Robbins 5 Second Rule of counting down from 5 to 1 to bring yourself back to the moment. Recognizing and being aware of these limiting filters allows for refreshing freedom with people, in situations, and our approach to life overall.
Maintain eye contact when you are listening to someone. This will keep your mind from wandering and lets the person know they have your full attention. Eliminate rolling your eyes, closing your eyes, looking over their head, or staring at their shoes while they are talking.
Be engaged with listening while you are listening to another individual. Remember, quality time is giving someone your undivided attention, so cut out the social media, turn your phone on silent and eliminate any distractions.
Listen for feelings. Most of us struggle with expressing our feelings because we are unsure of how they will be received. When listening to others – Ask yourself: “What is this person’s emotions right now?” When you think you have the answer, confirm it by asking. For example, “It sounds like you are feeling unloved because I forgot to do xyz . . .” That communicates that you are intently involved and allows the person a chance to make clear his/her feelings.
Observe body language. Many times what we can’t say, we communicate through our body language – sometimes sending 2 different messages. Clenched fists, trembling hands, tears, raised brows, tight shoulders and eye movement can give you clues as to what the person is feeling. Always ask for clarification.
Refuse to interrupt. This one can be difficult, even still for me. As much as we want to empathize and provide a solution, it serves the person and conversation better to allow them to fully share the thoughts, and feelings first before asking if you can provide feedback.
Ask reflective questions. Always ask questions that cause you and the person to check into the real(ity) of the situation.
Express understanding. Check in with the other person by expressing your empathy and understanding.
Ask if there is anything you might do that would be helpful. Instead of immediately offering your perspective, solution or your similar experience – Ask the other person what you can do to help (listen, provide a response, coach them, refer them, etc.) Notice that you are asking—not telling—the person what they ought to do. Never give advice until you are sure the other person wants it.