Do you feel the strength of your personal relationships has a lot to do with your well-being? I am pretty sure most would nod in agreement to that! After all, those relationships are our lifeline! Where would we be without those special people we share our lives with?
Those relationships do require tending, though, and communication is key to having good quality ones. Healthy, meaningful relationships play a huge part in living a healthy lifestyle, so, lets put in the effort and do a little self-check to see if we are doing our best when communicating with those important people in our lives, shall we?
Being a good communicator is more about being a good listener than anything else, I think. If you have that down, you are more than halfway there to being a great communicator and enjoying stronger relationships and better health (study here). And, besides, there are few things that illustrate how much you care about someone than when you take the time to listen to him or her — really listen, that is.
BEST LISTENING TIPS
Here are five tips I try to remember when communicating – er . . . I mean listening – when someone I care about is speaking:
1. Show that you want to be there. Even if your day is the most hectic ever and you can only give the person 30 seconds, make those 30 seconds count. I would rather have 30 seconds of someone’s attentive attention rather than 30 minutes of the person scanning the room, looking at his or her phone, gazing out the window. You get the picture. So, let’s put down our gadgets, papers, a book — all those distractions — and be there.
2. Let them see the color of your eyes. In many cultures, eye contact is a big visual cue that we are listening. But, I say, look at whoever is speaking to you, even if he or she is not looking at you. This is so important with children, too. Stoop down, if you must, to show them your eyes and the understanding behind them. Besides, if we don’t, a message of uncertainty, guilt, lack of confidence or worse, indifference can be conveyed even if we are not feeling that way.
A full dead-on stare isn’t a good idea either, though. That can carry an intensity you may not want to display either. So, no staring but show ’em some love with your eyes.
3. No jumping in. Jumping to conclusions, I mean. Give the person a chance to finish his or her thought or idea. Don’t judge quickly or mentally criticize. If you let them finish the thought, you may learn you are on the same page after all or even better . . . learn something new!
4. Take a pause. Find the natural break in the conversation before responding with either your thoughts or a question. This one is tough for me as I tend to have a lot of questions! But, many times, I have noticed, if I pause and let the speaker finish, the questions get answered as the person was allowed to explain fully. Besides, interrupting too much can say, “My thoughts (ideas, solutions) are more important (better, more interesting) than yours!” I bet that is not the message you want to send.
If you are dealing with a slower talker or someone formulating their thoughts organically as they are speaking, give it a chance. A great idea may be in the making. This is especially true for children and teens and your patience and respect teaches them to be good listeners as well.
5. Walk beside them. Maybe this is the most important aspect of great listening and communicating. A good listener walks beside the speaker and puts themselves in the speaker’s shoes and situation. Empathy for the speaker is critical to truly understanding the viewpoint or experience described. Your facial expressions, your words, and your questions all show empathy. Even a simple nod, a smile, laugh, even a tear (all sincere please!) help with that. Your follow up questions are important, too, to show you are listening to what they are saying.
Engaging in meaningful conversation with someone you care about showing understanding and connecting with your speaker is the ultimate relationship enforcer. Mentally and emotionally walking along with the person as he or she speaks allows you to experience what the person is describing, feeling and allows for clarification of something you were perhaps not understanding very well.
Of course, there are many other tips and ways to show your attention to those that are speaking, but if you can remember the basics suggested here, you should be on your way to conveying the main message – you care about them and what they are saying!
Care to add anything here – any suggestions for better listening and communications with others or a story about how it went well . . . or maybe not so well. Please do in the comments!