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The Three Keys of Listening Well

Listening well in relationships can be a difficult skill to master. Missing important pieces of information in a conversation, often leads to misunderstanding and communication barriers.

Here are three ways you can develop active listening skills that will positively impact your relationships.

Listen to Hear, Not to Respond

When a friend comes to you and tells you that they’ve had a bad day, if your first response is, “that’s okay, tomorrow will be better”, you’re listening to respond. Although your goal might be to help your friend feel better by saying “that’s okay, tomorrow will be better”, you’re actually losing a vital opportunity to really listen.

Some responses can act as a barrier that does more harm than good. When you get ahead with a response before fully understanding what’s being communicated, you risk misunderstanding your friends and sending the message that you don’t care enough to know more, or that the persons problems are insignificant.

The next time your friend comes to you with a challenge, remember the acronym W.A.I.T., which stands for “Why Am I Talking?” Ask yourself what your goal is by sharing your response — if your response doesn’t help your friend filter out their challenges or thoughts, you should probably continue listening.

Question, Clarify, and Rephrase

We can’t possibly assume that we know what everyone’s thinking or feeling. Before making an assumption, ask questions to further understand where your friend or loved one is coming from. If your interpretation doesn’t seem to fit the story your friend is sharing, continue asking questions and clarify what your friend has said. You can do this through rephrasing what they said using prompts such as: “so you’re saying…”, or, “from what I understand…”.

By doing this, you’re showing your friend two things: that you care to understand their situation, and that you actually understand their story. Feeling heard and understood in a relationship is important to establishing openness, trust, and confidence.

Don’t Be Afraid of Silence

So we’ve gone over responding too soon, or asking questions, but what about silence? The other person has gone quiet, doesn’t seem to have more to say, and you’re not sure what to do so you’re tempted to fill the space with a response. 

When you feel tempted to talk, stop yourself (and use the acronym W.A.I.T). Silence might be uncomfortable but it’s also where important nuggets of truth come out. When your friend goes quiet, give them space to fill the silence with their thoughts or even tears. Chances are, this is when you’re friend will spill beans on things they’ve contemplated saying but weren’t brave enough to share. This is your friends chance to share the challenging thoughts/emotions that exist below the surface.

Share Those Listening Skills

Now that you have these tips, you can practice including them in your conversations. The most important thing is that by practicing these tips you’re becoming aware of how you listen and leave room to notice any bad habits you might have that negatively impact how you listen. Start small by practicing one aspect of listening well and before you know it, you’ll be a better listener than you were before!

If you or someone you know is in need of support, feel free to give us a call to see how we can help you.