Help your relationships by listening well


This week, I want to talk about listening.

I’ve just finished teaching a coach training course where I train people to be wellbeing coaches. And one of the big things that we need to have as a skill set to be a good life coach is the ability to listen, to actively listen.

And this made me think that actually, that’s really a skill set that everybody needs to have.

Something that we are all commonly guilty of is passive listening, which unfortunately, doesn’t help build deeper connection or understanding nor resolve differing points of view.

With passive listening, very often when we speak to people, we’re talking away but our words are not landing upon the other person. Or perhaps somebody is talking to you but you’re not really hearing what they’re saying.

Usually this is because we want to reply quickly or we want to be helpful. Or perhaps we may have our own agenda that we want to get across. Sometimes it’s because we don’t know what to do so we’re frantically scrambling for the answer in our minds. Or it could be that we hear a key word that we focus onto and we think that’s what we should start talking about.

Sometimes we’re just listening in order to interrupt to say “but I want to tell you about me, I want to share my point of view, I want to tell my story”. We’re not really engaged in what the person is saying because we’re too consumed with our own selves.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, because to listen and to listen well, actually takes a lot of energy. It takes a lot of effort from you. And therefore, we just very often just drift around in a very passive listening state.

But what I would like to do is to challenge you for these next couple of days – to actively listen to what somebody is saying.

It can be your partner, or a work colleague, maybe it’s a friend or your child.

I want you to spend some time just hearing what that person has to say – whether you agree with it, whether you like what they’re saying, it doesn’t matter. Just give them the space.

You could even say “you know what, for the next 10 minutes, I’m just going to listen to what it is that you’re going to say, whether it’s something that’s bothering you, that’s affecting you, that makes you happy, that’s going well in your life, that’s not going well in your life”.

Give them the space to talk and make sure you pay attention to what they have to say. And therefore, you’re really honouring that person.

Then perhaps they could return the favour and hold the space while you talk for 10 minutes.

You get to really hear what it is that is going on in each other’s life. Maybe from that, you get a deeper conversation started.

So I would like you to give this a try. See if you can get to a deeper level with the other person that you’re talking to. Notice how the other person opens up when they are truly heard through active listening.

“The difference between hearing and listening is paying attention” Ruth Messinger


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