To wrap up the year with a post on our “The Art of Listening” series , here are some great tips on how to listen and how to become a better listener.
To start off, we discussed 10 situations that turn off the listening switch and make it harder to keep engaged. In the previous post, I shared four listening types: the kind listener, the empathetic listener, the critical listener and the solution focused listener.
If you want to know how to listen, you should know how to use all of them. So in this post, I will share ideas of how to become a kind listener, an empathetic listener, a critical listener and a solution focused listener and how to use each of these listening styles when appropriate.
How to listen using listening types
How to be a kind listener
- When you listen to other speak, try to think of good things to say about them and ways to support them.
- Find things you agree with and focus on them in your conversation.
- Find positive explanations for things the speaker said that seemed a bit off. For example, if they were curt, say, “She was probably very tired”.
How to be an empathetic listener
- Ask questions to help the other person to express themselves.
- Nod your head.
- Mirror the speaker expressions and body language.
- Become the speaker’s sounding board (i.e. reflect back what they are saying) but do not challenge them.
- Make validating sounds, like: mmm, mhm, yes, uh-huh…
- Say validating phrases such as, “I understand”, “I see”, “yes”, and “right”. Do not be tempted to assume how the person is feeling. If you assumed wrong, they may feel even more misunderstood.
How to be a critical listener
Critical listening is a bit tricky. It suits in some situations and not others. For example, in a social setting, it is best to avoid it altogether. In work situations, you might try the strategies below:
- Ask questions until you fully understand what the topic is about.
- Use hypothetical questions to trigger thinking and analysis.
- Ask for explanations if you find inconsistencies.
- Keep calm even if there are confusions and misunderstandings. This will help you sound more positive and less aggressive.
- Give your opinion only when asked.
- If you want to create change, remember that motivating people towards positive change is better than telling them off for doing the ‘wrong’ thing.
How to be a solution focused listener
- Being solution focused can come in very handy. But remember to use it appropriately. Try to share your ideas only when asked. If you can help the speaker get to the solutions by themselves by asking questions, they will be more likely to adopt your suggestions later on.
- Ask, “What needs to happen for you to feel better?”. This is a good way to help you shift the conversation topic towards solutions rather than problems.
- Ask, “So, what are you going to do?”. This question gives the speaker an opportunity to share what they are already thinking. Maybe they have already thought of the suggestions you had in mind. It will validate their feeling while keeping the focus on solutions.
- Phrase your solutions as options, like “How about trying…” rather than “Do this…”
- Phrase your suggestion as a question to verify if the speaker has tried it before, “Have you tried…?”
- Share a personal story that includes your suggestion.
- Accept it graciously if your suggestion is not adopted.
So now you know how to listen.
That is it from us for 2013. We hope you join us again next year for more posts and the next segment in “The Art of Listening”, on things to watch out for when using each of the listening types.
We wish you all a very happy and safe holiday season, filled with love and laughter. A very merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you all.
See you in 2014!
Ronit & the Family Matters Team