You may have read the quote “the biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand we listen to reply.”
I know for many of us we find this difficult, but why do we find this so hard, and how can we listen more to understand than reply?
Let’s look at the problem with us listening to respond. If we are formulating an answer in our minds, then how can we possibly be listening? We miss the main point of what the person is saying and give the person a huge dis-service by not being fully present nor actively listening to what they are saying.
Let’s look at the benefits of actively listening. If we are truly listening to the other person, we are showing a real interest in exactly what they are saying. Following up with questions about what they have just said not only shows we are and have been interested in what they said but we are interested in knowing more.
To help us make the transition from listening to respond, to listen to understand, we can reflect on how others listen to us and think about those questions they might ask us after we have said something. Or if the other person clearly had formulated their reply about something different, think about how this made us feel.
Some tips to take away to help us be in the moment and actively listen:
- Invite the other person to talk first encouraging them to share more about themselves
- Actively listen by giving eye contact, nodding or saying words of acknowledgement or encouragement
- Ask supplementary questions to find out more
- Consider sharing something about yourself on the same subject rather than leaping into a new story of your own
- Reflect on each meeting or conversation to determine how easy you found it and what you feel you did better than before; think about what you might have done better or different
Practicing listening to understand rather than listening to respond is a great project to keep above the radar as a ‘work in progress’.