Last week, Glennon Doyle Melton (of Momastery), author of Carry On, Warrior and the soon-to-be-released Love Warrior, posted this quote on Facebook: “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” -David Augsburger
She shared it with these words: “Just listen. Just listen. Just listen.”
I don’t think it was random that she posted this quote on a day between the Republican and Democratic conventions.
The world often feels like a place where people don’t do a lot of listening, and that feeling is amplified during elections. Especially on Facebook, where people still have political arguments even though finding common ground in such a forum is so challenging.
Are you listening?
But if we set aside elections for a moment and think about relationships, this issue of listening—of being heard—is critical. How many arguments are the result of misunderstanding? How many times do you find yourself thinking (or saying), “You’re just not hearing me. Are you listening?” Anyone who has tried to carry on a conversation with a friend focusing on their phone knows just how that feels.
Really listening to another person, hearing them and acknowledging their words, is an act of caring. Have we forgotten how to listen well? Are we afraid that opening ourselves to others’ opinions weakens our own opinions or arguments? Do we remember how important we feel when other people listen to us?
Be a better listener
I’m not sure what has happened, but I know that my own listening skills could use some work, too. Fortunately there’s a lot of good information and advice about how to improve your listening skills. I love this video on Mental Floss, which shares what a good listener is and how to become one. It talks about things like curiosity and encouragement, being engaged, urging clarification, being absent of judgment, and showing sympathy as you warm to the other’s vulnerability. Fast Company provides these 5 ways to improve your listening skills; I love that the first of these tips is to “be fully in the moment”—take that, cell phones!
Finally, Forbes shares 10 steps to effective listening. I definitely need to work on Step 5, which includes a warning about offering advice or “solutions.” Most of the time when people call to ask for advice, they only want to be heard. I need to remember this and offer a sympathetic ear without advice or a solution!
Being heard shows caring in such a simple way that listening well is worth working on. What are your thoughts? Are you a good listener? How do you improve your listening skills?
Listening is such an important skill to cultivate. As a coach I had to develop good listening skills. It’s so tempting to want to offer solutions, but our clients need to be encouraged to find their own answers. Listening is the best way to help in those situations.
It’s amazing what it does for people to just listen to them, isn’t it? Someone who thinks they don’t have an answer feels supported enough by your thoughtful listening to figure it out. Feels like magic! Thank you for reading!
Whenever I don’t feel heard I think about my daughter putting her tiny hands on my face and turning me towards her to say, “listen with your eyes too!” Sometimes we forget to focus on each other.
That is a good reminder. Kids don’t think you’re listening if you’re not looking. Come to think of it…I don’t feel like my husband’s really listening if I don’t get eye contact either. I want to work on this.
It’s definitely something I’ll be working on, too…I notice it in other people all the time, but I know I’m guilty myself! Thanks for reading, Venessa!
This is so true! And as always, children have the best insights. “Listen with your eyes”…I love that! Thank you for reading, Kayla!
Another person to listen to is yourself- there are so many times when your “gut” or inner voice is telling you the direction to take and you don’t hear yourself.
Such a good point, Claire. And probably we all can remember a time we didn’t hear (or listen to) that inner voice and paid the price!