Have you ever felt that despite someone looking at you, and acting as though they were listening, they weren’t engaged?
Perhaps you may have experienced someone interrupting you to share their own experiences?
Or maybe someone has practised their version of active-listening on you, leaving you feeling unheard and worst of all a social experiment?
These experiences can leave us feeling unheard and sometimes invalidated. We can walk away thinking “I’m never going to do that to someone”, but where do we start?
Listening with your whole being helps us to understand people and show empathy towards them. It is an art/craft that can be developed with conscious effort and practice.
What are some of the attributes of listening with your whole being?
The Chinese word for Listen is ‘Ting”; it is a whole-body experience, a union between people that is built from deep rapport.
People tend to think of communication as a verbal process, however, most psychological research estimates that 85% of our communication is nonverbal.
The elements of active listening involve paying attention to:
- Eye Contact
- Tone of Voice and Rate of Speech
- Encouragers….are responses that use a combination of verbal and a non-verbal cues that encourage another person to keep talking. The message they convey is: “I’m with you” or “Please go on”
- Open Questions
- Pause and Paraphrase
How might you develop your listening skills?
Step one: Lead-in – reflect the context
Step one involves demonstrating a genuine interest in understanding the context of the other person’s experience by applying active listening strategies and reflecting back to the person what you’ve heard. This may sound like “You’re finding that your workload is hard to manage at the moment”.
Step two: Identify the content – thoughts and feelings
The next step in empathic listening involves reflecting the content of the thoughts and particularly the feelings that a person appears to be expressing. This is known as ‘interchangeable empathy’. “You’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work you have on your plate at the moment”.
Step three: The unspoken emotion
Add to your reflection a tentative interpretation that reflects the unspoken emotion. This is called ‘additive empathy.’ Sensing what another is feeling without their saying so captures the essence of empathy. Others may not often tell us in words what they feel, but they do tell us in their tone of voice, facial expression, or other non verbal ways. “I’m hearing you’re experiencing a lack of control over your work”.
Being mindful of how we communicate with each other and practising listening with our whole being, builds relationships and trust. We don’t leave people feeling unheard or invalidated by our actions. We want to leave people better than when we found them.
As you go into your week, have a go at being mindful of how you listen to people during conversations. Are you actively listening or not listening to people as they share with you.
Choose one of the elements of active listening to focus on and notice how people are communicating with you, or with others, by using this element.