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Why Listen to Reply Instead of Understand Is the Key to Failure

Why Listen to Reply Instead of Understand Is the Key to Failure

The key to success in any relationship is good communication, but most of us are not taught the fine art of really listening to another person. Taking the advice to listen to understand instead of to reply is very important in relationships with coworkers, partners, parents, and anyone else in your life.

How Most People Listen Isn’t Really Listening

Listening to reply is the standard way that most people communicate. What that means is that instead of really paying attention to what the other person is saying, you are already thinking about what you want to say in response.

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Of course it’s great to have a well-thought-out reply, but if you’re thinking about what you want to say instead of hearing what the other person is saying, you aren’t really listening and communicating well.

You may be getting your point across — or not, if the other person listens the same way you do — but you’re not having a meaningful interaction with the other person.

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What “Listening to Understand” Looks Like

Instead of thinking about what you want to say while the other person is talking, really listen to them. The experts call this “active listening”, and there are a few different components:

  • Pay attention. When someone is talking to you, look at them. Notice their eye contact and body language. Take in their tone of voice as well as what they are actually saying. Really listen.
  • Listen with your body. Turn toward the person who is talking, lean in, and make them feel listened to because you really are listening. Make eye contact, smile, nod, and make leading noises (“Uh-huh”, “Really?”, “Go on”, etc.) when appropriate.
  • Don’t interrupt. The best way to make someone feel like they are not being heard is to interrupt or talk on top of them. Listen fully and wait until they are done to ask questions or add your thoughts.
  • Repeat what they said. Don’t just say what you were planning to say. Show that you have heard what they said by repeating back to them a summary of what you heard when appropriate before adding your own opinions.
  • Respond to what they said. Be honest and respectful in your responses, and remember to talk — and listen — in the ways that you would want to be talked or listened to.

How to Practice Better Listening

Becoming a more active listener really does take practice, so how do you learn to listen to understand instead of to merely reply? First, understand that you won’t be perfect at this overnight, or maybe ever, but you can start working on better listening today and keep trying every day to put these ideals into practice.

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Start by putting down your phone whenever someone is talking to you.

Turn to them, look them in the eyes, and really listen to what they are saying. Don’t assume you know what they want to talk to you about so you don’t really have to pay attention. This is especially important with the kids in your life, because more than anyone else they need to know that you think they are important.

Respond by repeating before commenting.

This classic therapy move really does make people feel heard and understood, and there are times when it can really save your bacon, like when you’re talking to your boss and you don’t fully understand what he/she wants. This is a good trick to use with anyone in any situation.

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Try not to judge.

The hardest part of all in active listening is not being judgmental or jumping to conclusions. When you’re really listening, you need to try to withhold personal thoughts and feelings unless they are requested. Unless they specifically ask for advice, don’t give it. Some people really just want to be heard; they don’t want you to try to fix things. Most of all don’t assume you know more about a situation than the person speaking. “Mansplaining” – or talking down to someone – is never a good idea.

Learning better listening skills is a process, but it’s well worth it because people around you will feel more supported and understood and will definitely like you more as you communicate better with them.

Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

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Sarah White

Freelance Writer, Editor, Professional Crafter

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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