One thing every person needs, and especially those who are experiencing depression or stress, is to feel like they are seen and heard. When you take the time to listen to someone, you let the other person know that they are valuable enough that you are willing to give them your time and attention. Listening is a great tool to have in your toolbox and below I offer 4 ways to be a better listener:
- Create a safe space. We have a rule in our ReDo Day program: what happens in ReDo stays in ReDo. To be a great listener, we first need to make sure that we are great at making other people feel safe. This means that we are trustworthy, we are known for being respectful and that we are openly compassionate. When we have created a safe space the other person knows that we have their best interest at heart and we will speak and act in a way that is best for them. We won’t use their words against them, or won’t stop listening to interject our own stresses and struggles into the conversation.
- Understanding is more important than replying. It is a natural thing to want to offer advice or solutions to those who seem to be struggling. But our need to give answers can often times get in the way of the other person feeling like they have been heard and understood. Instead of listening to provide an answer, try listening to understand more of how the person is feeling about their current circumstances.
- Stay in the moment. This means that your focus is entirely on the person you’re listening to and what they are saying. We never seem to be far from our digital devices, but take a moment and silence the ringer on your phone and put it in your pocket. I promise you won’t regret missing a call (or a tweet, or a text or a snap) to listen to someone in need. Be intentional about setting any distractions aside, this also includes your own thoughts. Set your own feelings and assumptions about what the person is saying aside and listen to what they are saying in the present moment. You’ll learn a lot.
- Be curious. This is the active part of listening. As mentioned above, don’t assume that you know what a person is saying or feeling or where the conversation is heading. Listen for words or sentences that pique your interest and then ask a question about it or ask them to explain it further. For example, if a friend says, “I feel like everyone hates me”, you might say, “Wow. That must be really hard. Was there a specific thing that happened that made you feel that way?” Remember that listening is about focusing on the other person – your only job is to help that person express the feelings and thoughts that they have. Asking questions is a great way to do that.
Listening is a skill you’ll use everyday and when you get the chance to put these 4 listening skills into practice, write and tell us about it on our Facebook page, here.
photo credit: Ken Whytock <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/7815007@N07/31116088963″>Quotation: “When it comes to good listening skills, it’s not so much about the ears as it is about being observant.”</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>