By Cynthia May, MA, LLP, EAC Clinical Specialist – I work with many clients who want to learn how to better communicate with their spouse, partner, child, or co-worker. When I work with couples, in particular, I ask each individual what they hope to gain from counseling; the common response is, “to communicate better.” Learning a new approach to speaking is, indeed, a very key advantage to learn. However, if the other one isn’t listening, the meaningful connection is lost.
The preciousness and value of “being heard” has been so overlooked and reduced to just being a process of hearing/perceiving sounds and words. Real listening is an active, conscious decision. It’s an action that creates an emotional connection between you and the person speaking. It proves that you value them.
In other words, I know you truly listened to me when I feel:
- Mentally acknowledged of what I said
- Emotionally recognized how I felt in the moment
- Truly valued – you really cared about me to stop and listen
- A real connection with you – a moment of togetherness, both emotionally and mentally
- Good about myself and you. It’s a moment of intimacy, feeling special that you gave me your time, eye contact and attention to listen deeply.
Notice that the verb used is “feel.” Listening is an emotional interaction. It’s a gift for both people.
If your child, friend, family, partner, co-worker is not “feeling heard,” you unintentionally withhold your caring from them in that moment. The speaker feels alone, rejected or just not important to you.
Here are some methods to try to truly practice listening:
- Stop what you are doing (if possible) and give eye contact. See them, their expression, their eyes. Multi-tasking is NOT fully listening.
- Give the gift of at least a full 2 seconds of silence before responding. Be present and give them your presence – be open mentally and emotionally. Stop your inner mind talk in order to be able to repeat what they said. This is their moment of needed attention.
- Notice how they sound, their tone or inflection. What do you sense they are feeling? The top 5 categories are: Happy, Sad, Hurt, Fear, or Angry.
- Repeat the message back in your own words. Confirm if you understand them correctly; do not try to fix any problem.
- State how you think they feel. For example, you might say, “It sounds like you feel (happy) about that. Are you?” Don’t be concerned if you’re not right. They’ll tell you what they really do feel.
“Listen with your heart, you will understand.” – Pocahontas