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How To Really Hear, Rather Than Simply Listen

How To Really Hear, Rather Than Simply Listen

You may hear, but do you truly listen? Active listening is an important skill that few people possess. It is the art of allowing someone else to feel truly heard. In our busy modern lives, many of us are under more stress than ever. Too often, we find it hard to concentrate on what others are saying, and therefore struggle to give friends and family a place to vent their troubles.

The skill of active listening can build relationships by fostering strong bonds and communication. Active listening isn’t just setting aside a few minutes to allow someone else the chance to talk. It is about being willing to remain receptive to whatever the other person wants to say, and accepting their perspective without judgement.

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A few tips for active listening are as follows:

1. Make good use of body language.

Lean forward, maintain eye contact with your conversation partner, do not fidget, and do not glance over to other people in the room. Have you ever spent time talking with a friend who keeps tapping their fingers on the table or twirling their hair around and around their fingers? You probably found it to be very irritating. Keep your hands still if possible so as not to distract your companion.

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2. Put your phone away.

Checking your emails or messages every five minutes will signal to your friend that you are not truly listening, which will make them feel as though their presence is merely an inconvenience to you. We have all been in a meeting or conversation with someone who seems glued to an electronic device. It doesn’t feel very respectful when they nod absent-mindedly whilst tapping out a message, does it? Keep your phone zipped away in a bag or pocket.

3. Use gestures to encourage someone to keep talking.

People who use gestures carefully know how to make sure that their conversation partner feels truly heard. For example, a well-timed nod or small hand gesture can give someone else the confidence they need to carry on talking when otherwise they might have dried up.

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4. Repeat the main points someone has said, using your own words, followed by “Have I understood you correctly?”

Have you ever been in a situation in which you just don’t feel as though someone is really grasping the meaning of whaever it is you are saying? It’s frustrating, but there is a simple way to check that you and another person are working within the same framework of meaning.

When someone has finished making a point, paraphrase it and ask whether you have understood them properly. This will convey that you have truly listened to, and understood, the other person. Of course, if you have misunderstood, they will then have a chance to correct you.

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5. Do not interrupt.

Interrupting is one of the quickest ways to frustrate a conversation partner! It sounds simple, but if you want to instil confidence in your conversation partner, you cannot afford to interrupt them. If you are known to be a chronic interrupter, you could even make this exercise into a game – see how many minutes you can listen for without giving into the urge to speak.

6. Resist the urge to give advice.

Most of us will have been guilty of trying to tell someone else what to do. For example, if your friend tells you that their partner has cheated on them, your first response might be to shout “Dump them!” However, sometimes another person just wants someone to hear them out. Remind yourself that your primary gift to someone is not your advice but your time. Repeat this like a mantra in your head when you are tempted to chip in with unsolicited advice.

Follow these tips and you will soon gain a well-deserved reputation as someone who knows how to listen carefully and respectfully to those around them.

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Jay Hill

Freelance Writer

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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