What are you listening to? What are you listening for? What are you not listening for? Have you created a story in your head? Are you listening for what you want to hear? Are you listening for what you don’t want to hear? What are you thinking about? You may think you’re truly listening, but are you REALLY?
Keep this in mind as you read through as it has great significance for the rest of the article.
1. Are you allowing time for them to pause and reflect before jumping in?
Guilty as charged. I used to be terrible at this, waiting for that momentary pause so I can jump in to express my opinion.
After learning the significance of the pause, and consciously using it as a space for reflection instead of an opportunity to jump in, I noticed the other person would generally relax into that space and speak on thoughts that I would have robbed them from by jumping in.
From observing numerous conversations with others and of others, I would venture to say that this is the most common misunderstanding I witness in communication.
The pause is not a time to jump in, it is a space for conscious reflection and an opportunity for new thought to come through into expression.
2. Are you thinking about what you’re going to say next while the other person is still talking?
The other person is talking away and you are already trying to construct in your head what you would like to say next. While you’re doing this, you are not receiving ALL of the information. The entire time you’re creating your next sentence in your head you are not receiving the other person fully.
Because of the gap between the rate at which we can listen and speak, it is inevitable that your mind will wander at times while listening to another. The difference maker is, how quickly you can catch your mind wandering and bring it back to the present moment.
3. Do you finish peoples’ sentences?
I can’t think of many things that are more annoying than this, can you? I don’t know one single person who enjoys having other people finish their sentences. For whatever reason, many people seem to like to try and prove their artificial competency in mind-reading or superiority.
I know for me when I used to finish people’s sentences I felt more superior in my competence which is what attracted me to do it. I now know that this kills communication and my so-called superiority along with it.
When people are speaking, let them speak! If they appear to be struggling to find a word or put together their next thought, give them space. The worst thing you can do in that situation is to try and attempt to finish what you didn’t give them the chance to.
4. Do you listen beyond the words they speak, to what is unsaid?
This was a tough one for me to grasp at first as I hardly understood what it even meant. I see the same difficulty in others when they hear of it.
Yes, listening for the tone of voice, and watching for body language, are of high importance but I will be speaking on what is beyond even that.
What is beyond the words? Meaning. Meaning goes beyond the obvious, beyond understanding.
Understanding what someone is saying is incomplete if you don’t hear the meaning behind what they are saying.
For example, you can understand when someone tells you they are thinking about filing for a divorce because their spouse cheated on them. You understand their situation, it makes sense, whether you agree with them or not. Now, what is the meaning of what they just told you?
One simple example of a meaning to explore would be: It is obvious they feel betrayed by the evidence of the thought regarding filing for a divorce. However, they have NOT filed for a divorce, it is still only a thought, why? What is the meaning behind this?
This is worth further exploration, and they will be grateful you heard beyond the words they spoke. You can now explore what was unsaid.
Nearly all conversations are not quite this simple as they are many stories and links to be explored and connected. Just remember:
It is also common for people to not say what they mean out of fear, or incomplete thought processing. Someone who listens beyond words will recognize this and ask them to clarify what they meanwhile giving them space.
Can you see now how meaning goes much deeper than understanding?
Are you as good of a listener as you thought you were?
This was a difficult understanding for me to convey so I hope it did the trick.
Learn from all of your experiences, opportunities are everywhere.