There are many ‘models’ to help understand the dynamic that takes place when communicating but a first practical step is to simply become more mindful of how or what we are thinking during a conversation.
Many of us don’t consider whether what we say can be interpreted in a different way and we can react negatively when it is. The next time you have a ‘difficult’ conversation try pausing and consider what it was exactly you said to elicit the negative response and then think about (or become mindful) of the points above. Could you have framed what you wanted to say differently? Would this have led to a different (more positive) response?
It’s also worth considering how well we actually listen. Active listening sends a clear signal to the other person we are interested in what they say. Often however, when engaged in conversation, our mind wanders on or we make assumptions or judgements about what the other person is saying. We stop listening and start to think about our response; in so doing we can miss what the other person actually says. If we recognise our mind is distracted we can consciously refocus back to listening. Becoming mindful of this and recognising what we are doing helps us become a more active listener. So how good a listener do you think you are? Have a go at the quick test below to find out.
TAKE THE TEST – HOW GOOD AT LISTENING ARE YOU?
Generally we think of ourselves as good listeners, but are we? Do we understand the difference between hearing and listening?
Listening is vital in developing and maintaining healthy relationships and when interacting with others. It is easy to get distracted, especially as we tend to be preoccupied by our own thoughts and emotions. If someone is talking to us, it’s all too easy to let our minds wander and not pay close attention to what the other person is saying. We may get distracted by what is going on around us, by whatever we’re thinking about, or even by what we want to say next: this can become particularly damaging if key parts of the message are not heard due to inattention. Active listening requires a conscious effort to hear not only the words that the other person is saying but trying to understand the complete message they’re attempting to communicate.
Here is your opportunity to check whether you are an active listener. Consider each of the following statements carefully and answer as honestly as you can using the following scale:
4 = always 3 = most of the time 2 = some of the time 1 = rarely
50-60 Excellent! You have very good listening skills.
40-49 Great! You have above average listening skills, but there’s always room for improvement.
30-39 Your score is promising, but there’s quite a bit room for improvement.
15-29 Your listening skills are not the greatest, there’s lots of room for improvement!
So, take a few moments to reflect on your results and consider what changes you can make to become a better listener.