I think many of us will agree that the trouble in most relationships boils down to ineffective communication. And communication isn't just in what you say; it's also in how you listen and respond to what is said.
Today, I want to focus on active listening. Answer this: Are you a listener, or a wait to talker? You know -- those people with whom you're having a conversation and you feel like nothing you're saying is registering with them, because they're just waiting to jump into the gap between your words so they can talk about whatever it is they want to talk about (most likely themselves)? Obviously, that behavior is not considered good listening.
Active listening looks something like this:
You're having a conversation with someone, and she's talking. You're making eye contact and mirroring her by nodding that you understand, or smiling if she is smiling, or showing concern with your facial expression if she is sharing something upsetting. Mirroring is a way, using your body language and facial expressions, to encourage the speaker to continue. It indicates that you are with her, interested and empathizing with what she is telling you. It also means asking a follow-up question rather than immediately offering an opinion or trying to change the subject. Something along the lines of, "Then what happened?" or "How was that for you?" will encourage deeper sharing. Once she has fully expressed herself and if she is seeking advice, you can offer, "I have a thought about that; would you like to hear it?" as opposed to just giving your opinion. (When you jump in with unasked-for advice or criticism, you are actually robbing her of her dignity. By not offering a judgment or making assumptions, you are creating a safe space for her to fully express herself to you.)
Wouldn't it be lovely to have someone do this for you, too? So spread this blog around to your friends, family and coworkers. Hopefully they'll heed this advice as well.
What does it feel like when you don't have to fight to be in a conversation? Where there is space for both people to talk and feel taken in by the other? It feels calming, nurturing and pretty fantastic, doesn't it?
Active listening is the bridge to deeper intimacy and a more authentic connection in all of your relationships.
This week, think about what kind of listener you are and what kind you want to be. Take actions that are in line with your idea of an ideal listener. See how people respond to you as you take this new approach to having conversations. It is as simple as asking a question and then holding expansive and attentive space for the person's answer. It is a profound way to honor others, and it is 100 percent free!
I hope you have an amazing time flexing your new listening muscle and, as always, take care of you.
Love Love Love,
Terri Cole is a licensed psychotherapist known for her holistic approach, combining practical psychology, thought innovation, and harnessing the power of intention to create sustainable change. She has a unique ability to take complex theories and translate them into actionable steps you can implement into your daily life. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.