I just spent a day at a Retreat with a group of my colleagues, all collaborative divorce professionals, focusing on how we listen. When people go through a divorce, it is critical that they feel heard and still get all the information they need. So, listening and talking have to be balanced according to what the client really needs at that moment.
Listening is so important. And not just during divorce. Good listening is the basis for all good relationships. And yet, in this busy and noisy world we seem unable to listen to our inner selves let alone anyone else. An important point to remember is that hearing is not necessarily listening.
Listening requires some basic skills. But it also requires a desire to connect with another person. Interestingly, it is more difficult to listen to others if we don’t listen to our own inner selves. Our unattended to inner voices can get in the way when others try to get us to truly hear what they are saying. If someone is angry, we may be hearing and responding to someone else in our own lives. We often shut down and stop listening and really hearing if we are reacting internally to our own inner experiences.
There are a few basic rules to help you become a better listener.
- Put down your electronics when talking to others. This is pretty basic. We can all tell when we are on the phone with someone if they are also doing something else on their computer, phone, iPad etc.
- Make and maintain good eye contact. This lets the person know you are interested in what they are saying.
- Don’t interrupt. To be a good listener, you have to halt your own thoughts and let the other person complete what they have to say. I see so many couples who get into trouble because instead of listening to their partner, they are spending the entire time formulating their response and then interrupting to get their own thoughts out. Then…no one is heard, no one feels validated or better and nothing gets resolved.
- Listen without thinking. This is hard if you are not used to keeping your own mind emptied and still, especially since our minds think around 800 words per minute, compared to 125-150 words we speak per minute.
- Listen without judgement. Try to be open minded. After all, if you want someone to hear what you are saying you don’t want them to shut down because they are being narrow minded and have no room for your thoughts.Hearing new or different ideas does not hurt us and can truly make another feel better. It is often better to be heard than to be right.
- Listen to the non verbal communication and be aware of your own. Is the person saying one thing but their body is saying something different? Are you saying you are listening but looking somewhere else? Are your arms crossed in a closed position? Are you leaning towards the person and showing you are there with them?
Think about how good you feel when you feel someone is truly listening. And then try to give that gift to those around you.