When you and a friend are talking with each other, what portion of the time should you speak, and what portion of the time should they speak? How long should you speak before “handing the microphone” back to your friend, and how can you know when to make this hand-off? If you are keeping the microphone too long, how should your friend go about trying to get the microphone back? “Conversation” means, at its root, “turning about together.” Does this describe your conversations?
Listening comes naturally for some people, but not at all for others. Is it possible that you are known as a person who is not a good listener? If you are a confident talker who enjoys sharing your thoughts with others, how can you make sure that you are an equally skilled listener? Here are a half-dozen ways for you to improve your listening skills.
#1 Always look at the person you’re speaking with. Vital ancillary messages will be sent your way nonverbally, through your friend’s posture, facial expression, etc.
#2 When you are talking, if you see your friend open their mouth, this means they want to say something. A bad listener will reject this cue and intentionally “hog the microphone” by speaking louder and faster. Bad idea! Instead, take the hint to “hand back the microphone” right away.
#3 When your friend is talking, let them finish their thought before voicing your comments. Show your respect for them by letting them finish their own sentences! To finish another person’s sentences is called interrupting, and it is a bad habit. Who are you to assume that you know what they are about to tell you?
#4 When they reach a stopping point, request the “microphone” through a visible gesture. It could be opening your mouth, raising a hand or finger, or a facial expression.
#5 When you receive back the “microphone,” first acknowledge what your friend last said. “That’s a good point.” “I hear you.” “You’re right.” “No, what I meant is ….” If you simply continue your previous line of speech as though they had never spoken, your friend will feel invisible, left wondering if you heard or valued their words at all.
#6 Think of your turn with the “microphone” an opportunity to speak a sentence or a short paragraph, not an essay, a book chapter, or a book.
In brief: Look, share, wait, request, acknowledge, think. These are important listening skills. Let me know how these work for you.
“My passion is ensuring that every adult is mentally ready to succeed in all transitions that comprise the adult years. The meaning in my life comes from helping my patients see themselves, their situation, their future, and the entire world with new eyes and a newly courageous attitude.