In Honor of International Listening Awareness Month

Listening – An Easy Gift to Give.

When you listen to another – really listen, it helps to boost the other person’s self-esteem.  It sends the message that someone understands and cares about them.  It is the number one thing that you can do to enhance your relationships with others.  Sometimes, simply just being heard can also be healing!

Sadly, many people believe they have no one that will listen to them.  Even sadder, is how often it is true.  How many times have you felt that you are not being heard in your own home, within your job, or in your community?  Have you ever been involved in situations where you felt like you weren’t heard?  Does this leave you feeling ignored and overlooked?  How often have you been too busy to sit down and really listen to those you care about?

A common issue that I find many of my clients suffer from is low self-esteem stemming from being ignored or not being fully heard.  They often state how during childhood they were not heard and this feeling has continued into adulthood, becoming a truth in their relationships.

Why is it that we cannot give to those that we love the most, the powerful gift of listening?  It doesn’t cost a lot of money, or require an outrageous amount of time.  However, it does take the ability to forget our self – our routine and thoughts for a few minutes and totally focus on another.  It also takes the skill of actively listening.  Neither should be faked – if they are – there is no gift.

What do most of us need in our lives – especially when we face stress and problems?  Someone to listen to us.  Become an active listener using love and compassion to show others that they are important.  Especially when those in your life are troubled.  Listening does not mean solving someone’s problems, or even giving them advice.  Sometimes people just want a good sounding board – a listening ear.

Here are some tips on being an effective active listener.  Active means you listen in a way that lets the other person know that they are being heard.

1. Make eye contact.  The majority of communication is relayed in nonverbal cues like, body language and facial expressions.  These cues play a vital role in figuring out what a person is saying, and how they are feeling.  Eye contact and occasional nodding are great at affirming to the other person that they have your full attention.  So many of us listen to someone talking while reading the paper or while watching TV, and although we might hear what is being said – that person does not feel heard.  It is important to give active signals that you are really listening, and caring.

2.  It is ok to be silent.  When someone is talking and stops to gather their thoughts – it isn’t a sign that you need to jump in to fill the dead air.  Even once you feel it is time to respond – it is ok to allow a few moments to gather your thoughts.  This sends the message that you are really considering what was said – making your reply better received.

3. Questions.  To hear more and listen deeply – do not be afraid to ask questions.  When you take the time to ask questions you will be surprised what you will learn about what those closest to you are feeling.  Moreover, they will feel valued, because you took the time to ask about them and their life.

4. Repeat back what has been said.  When we periodically repeat back what the other person is saying, it not only sends the message that we are listening – but can increase communication clarity.  It ensures that you got the messages and gives the speaker a chance to consider if they have articulated what they are feeling.  This can be done best by rephrasing it.  (Examples, “So what I hear you saying is…”  “So I understand that the problem is…”)

Everyone needs to know that someone cares about them.  When you listen to someone actively, you help to enhance their self-esteem.  Listening to another’s problems can also prevent depression and release pent up feelings.  Give the gift of caring and compassion by really listening to others.

When you become an active listener for others – they will learn how to be an active listener from you, and soon they will be giving the same love and compassion back to you.  Start the cycle of good listening within your circle of family and friends.  Then watch it grow and grow.  It all starts with one; why not be the one?

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