The 5 rules of good listening
1. Be warm and attentive.
People have an instinctive feel for who wants to listen and who doesn’t. Unfortunately, most people don’t really talk to but at each other. Their conversations can be paraphrased as ‘Me, me, me,’ with the inevitable reply of ‘No, me, me, me.’ To actually listen to someone is a rare and precious gift. Do not underestimate its power.
2. Show that you are listening.
Communication is a dynamic, interactive process. Unless you show that you are listening, people will lose confidence in whatever it is they are saying, think you’re not interested, and grind to a halt. You’ll miss out on all the really interesting, juicy bits that people only reveal once they are in their comfort zone. So how do you show that you are listening? Some common and useful strategies include adopting an open body posture, making reactive eye contact, nodding, prodding, echoing or reflecting back, and checking. “Treated you badly? In what way?”
3. Check understanding.
Show that you are on the same wavelength, that you are really ‘getting’ what is being said and even, often, what is not being said but trying to be said. Engage with the material, ask questions, provide feedback, empathize with emotions. If you can’t empathize with an emotion (feel the same emotion), then at least sympathize with it.
4. Be slow to pass judgment.
The best way to stop someone from self-disclosing is to be or even just appear to be passing judgment on them. Sometimes it’s important to disagree with something or other, and some people might appreciate you for doing so. But even then, there are ways of doing so.
5. Use silence appropriately.
Conversations that don’t use silence are hard work, and endless drivel is not always the best response. For example, some things are so subtle or important or shocking that the most appropriate response can only be an appreciative or understanding silence. Silence also shows acceptance and creates intimacy. As the writer Aldous Huxley once put it, ‘After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music’.
Credit for this article and more on this topic here.