For clinical psychologist Cissy Li, listening goes beyond the simple act of hearing
Listening. Sounds easy, right? Unfortunately, a sharp sense of hearing doesn't always translate into good listening skills. Sometimes we even hear more than we bargained for, especially when our mild-mannered neighbours giggle like hyenas or curse in loud whispers.
When was the last time you spoke to someone who had really, really good listening skills? I am sure they communicated well, made you feel valued and worthwhile, and did not jump straight into dispensing their own advice. In honour of these superstars, I've drawn up a list of listening tips that you can try when you have a friend in need or crisis situation to resolve:
TIPS ON HOW TO SHARPEN YOUR LISTENING SKILLS
DO quieten your mind, and focus on the perspective that is being shared with you.
DO notice the thoughts that your mind is generating, and the emotions that the story is making you feel. Notice any opinions, new ideas, or past experiences and let them float by.
DO ask questions to clarify what the person is asking you.
DO check in with how they are feeling about the situation, how long they have been thinking about it, how other people have responded, what their next steps are.
DO communicate you understand how they feel by listening to the tone of their voice, their facial expressions and their body language.
DO rephrase what you've heard. Listening is about more than just hearing, it's about communicating. People want to feel heard, so take a deep breath and summarise what you have heard back to the person using your own words, before adding any of your own pearls of wisdom.
Do ask yourself this: What is the person looking for? Sometimes people don't need a solution. They just want you to agree that what they experienced was unjust.
WATCH OUT FOR THESE PITFALLS
DON'T get distracted. We have to stop paying attention to the notifications flashing on our phone. We have to stop responding and answering our own thoughts about what's planned for dinner.
DON'T interrupt someone to talk about your opinions, ideas or past experiences. When this happens, it can mean you have jumped to a conclusion about what the person is wanting. It may signal to the listener that you are not interested in their story and only want to share your own.
DON'T spend too long thinking about the advice you will give them. One common problem with listening is that people have already made up their minds on what they want to say next. Instead, try to think after you have listened.
DON'T jump into problem solving until you have summarised what they have said, empathised with them and clearly ascertained that they want your help to solve a problem.
Not only will active listening skills help you when consoling a friend, but they will also help you on a first, second, or third date. Good listening skills slow down a conversation to a gentle, empathetic pace and can help another person feel validated enough to reach their own conclusions.
About Cissy Li
Originally from New Zealand, Cissy is a fan of thinking outside the box. She firmly believes that people can achieve greater fulfillment in their lives by being open and living authentically. When she's not busy living life, writing for Buro 24/7 Singapore, or engaging in volunteer work, Cissy enjoys her day job as a registered clinical psychologist.