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How to Be an Amazing Listener

How To’s designed to get you unstuck and pull you into alignment with your highest self.

Truth Bomb:

Did you know that the inability to communicate well is the biggest reason for divorce?

According to a recent study by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, communication breakdown was the reason for about 67.5% of divorces.

And this is often the case with other relationships as well!

When we struggle to communicate, we:

  • Have a hard time empathizing with others
  • Find it difficult to trust even our closest relationships
  • Argue much more often
  • Regularly feel misunderstood
  • Are more frustrated with daily life
  • Feel disconnected from others
  • And MUCH more!

Since the importance of communication in relationships cannot be underestimated, I wanted to talk about the first step to great communication, and that’s being a great listener.

This is a skill that can 100% be learned.

As many of you might have, I grew up in a household that only seemed to respond to needs, experiences, emotions, etc. when we made our voices the loudest and most persistent in the room.

I was desperate to be understood, and didn’t know how to achieve it any other way than talking over people.

As resourceful as that was at the time, it was a habit that did not serve me well with others!

I didn’t learn how to be a good listener until I was studying to become a coach.

I know this to be true because my friends and family started making comments about it!

As one of my brothers bluntly asked me after a conversation a couple of years ago, “How did you learn to listen like that? You used to be a TERRIBLE listener!”

And he was right.

The exciting part was that the active listening skills I learned created such an ease and closeness even in my relationships that were already established!

It’s never EVER too late to start, and it’s so crucial that you do if what you’re desiring to experience in your relationships is more trust, openness, honesty, and authenticity.

A quick note: The suggestions in this email are to improve relationships that are already satisfying for you.

Below are all of my best pointers for kickstarting your communication skills by becoming an amazing listener!

1. Don’t interrupt!

There are some exceptions to this very obvious truth such as feeling damage is being done to the relationship by the words that are being spoken or feeling confused about a point and asking for clarification.

For the most part though, the best decision you can make as a listener is to wait to share your comments or stories of how you personally relate until the person you’re listening to is finished with their share (even if it means forgetting to tell them that hilarious anecdote about your coworker!)

Even with the best intentions, interrupting can negatively affect trust, bonding, and the person feeling understood.

2. Make eye contact and pay attention to your body language

Experts say that at least 90% of communication is nonverbal.

Holy sht, that’s a lot!*

The encouraging thing about this fact is that even if all you do is follow this point, you’re leaps and bounds ahead of the game!

Here are some suggestions to hold a listening stance:

  • Make continued eye contact
  • Nod your head frequently
  • Lean in toward the person with your body
  • Use your facial expressions to show you’re following along (we feel especially understood when our energy and facial expressions are mirrored back to us to some degree)
  • Try to keep your body open by uncrossing your arms

It can take some work to make sure all of those things are in check, so be patient with yourself as you start.

You might try to master one at a time with people you talk to and then move on to the next point once it’s become a habit!

3. Use confirmation to build trust

This one is one of the easiest, and it’s probably my favorite!

One of the things we have a tendency to do when we’re listening (specifically if the person is upset and venting to us) is to try to cheer them up by saying things like, “It’s going to be okay,” suggesting that someone else has it worse, or giving advice.

BIG MISTAKE, PARTNER!

Countless studies in psychology have shown that when we attune to others and allow them space to feel their feelings, it is the fastest, most efficient way to help them process those emotions.

When we try to cheer them up (for our sake or for theirs), people feel defensive and misunderstood.

They often dig their heels in at that point to validate their feelings.

And that’s exactly what we DON’T want.

If your goal is to help someone feel better, you want to practice confirming their version of what they’re experiencing.

Y’all know how much I try to steer clear of labels; this is the exception.

With any person I’m talking to (no matter who it is), I find ways to confirm their story and experience.

If they say something sucks, I say, “That DOES suck.”

If they say something was powerful, I say, “That IS powerful!”

It is unbelievably reassuring to have someone confirm our version of events, and it actually helps us to see the big picture even faster.

Heck yes!!!

4. Apply curiosity over judgment

Ohhh I KNOW you’re gonna get tired of me talking about this point, and that’s okay!

The reason I stress it is because this idea is life changing across the board, and applying it in any area of your life will lead to tremendous improvement.

Before I learned the skill of listening, my thoughts ran rampant while someone else spoke.

I thought of the things I agreed with, disagreed with, and how I could turn the conversation back to me so I would feel a sense of belonging.

Notttt cute!

Uncoincidentally, I struggled with communication in pretty much all of my relationships!

Through practicing and noticing the results of my efforts, I began to start accepting without judgment what the person across from me was saying and showing my interest by asking open-ended questions fueled by my curiosity.

I found what helped this was to notice any time I caught myself making an assumption.

If you’re assuming something, it’s time to ask a question, preferably one beginning with “when,” “who,” “what,” or “how.”

Questions beginning with “why” can sometimes lead to defensiveness in the person you’re talking to. So, whenever possible, try to use one of the others!

My all time favorite question to ask is, “what was/is that like for you?”

That one is a winner as it creates space for the person to tell you what THEY think is most important.

5. Don’t let your “but” get in the way

This is one that still gets me, and we hear it ALL THE TIME!

“You’re a nice guy, but”

“I know you’re upset, but…”

“You did such a great job on this project, but…”

BUT, BUT, BUT!!!!

Just today, I saw a comment on social media that was full of great suggestions. And it started with, “I don’t mean to shame you, but…”

AGHHH! It’s almost too much for my little heart to bear!

Anything you say BEFORE “but” loses its meaning even if it’s the most important part of what you’re trying to get across.

I have seen that word tear down the most amazing compliments and lead to some completely unnecessary misunderstandings!

I like to use one of two methods to avoid this word when it has the potential to obscure my point.

1. Use “and” instead of “but.”

So, that last “but” statement could become something like, “You did such a great job on this project, AND I have some ideas of what you can do even better.”

Wow! That makes a big difference!

2. Make one sentence into two and drop “but” completely

If both points are equally important, you can drop “but” altogether to give equal weight to both statements.

So, the second statement above can become something like, “I know you’re upset with me. I tried so hard to be on time today.”

I encourage you to listen to how much damage “buts” can do when they’re thrown around willy nilly to see and feel this for yourself!

Practicing the above tips will help you become an amazing listener and slingshot you toward being a great communicator!

Since communication is such a huge topic and it’s so important, I may write more “how to’s” about it in the future.

Let me know if that’s something you would enjoy!

Now go forth and listen well, dear reader!

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