I must admit to you that I used to be a terrible listener, so to get rid of this nasty social habit, I learned some easy ways to become a better listenr.! I have a huge interest in helping other people, and before, when they would talk about their problems, I tried to tell them how I could maybe help them, much quicker than they could finish their sentences. What I learned, was no one wants to talk to someone like the old me, so I simply changed my habit and now know how to hush my mouth and wait for the other person to finish talking before I offer my two cents worth of advice! The following tips are easy for anyone to learn and will make you more of a “go-to” friend or confidante than someone who never hushes up long enough for someone to confide in. Remember, when you’re confiding in someone, you don’t want others interrupting you, so show the same sweet respect and learn these easy ways to become a better listener!
This is the most important of all ways to become a better listener, but is also one of the harder ones. Unfortunately, it can be hard not to butt in when we hear someone talking about something, or complaining about something that we think we know more about, or perhaps do know more about. Sometimes, we can want to speak up while they are in the middle of a sentence because we know of something that may help. Or perhaps, you’re on the phone with a stranger for a business call, and they make an incorrect statement about something. It can be easy to interrupt them and correct them, but this won’t get you anywhere but seen as disrespectful and unprofessional. No matter how wrong someone may be, or how much you simply want to offer your opinion or help, let the person finish talking before you open your mouth. Wait two to three seconds to make sure they are done and then politely offer your take on the matter, without coming off rude.
It can be easy to be defensive if someone is talking to you about something that concerns you, or if they criticizing you. When this happens, you probably don’t want to listen to them anyway, and especially don’t care to think about if you sound defensive or not in your response, but you should. Remember that a good listener will let another person freely voice their opinion and not explode in defensiveness later, which will make you seem obnoxious, hard to talk to, and someone who is overall difficult to deal with. Calmly state your opinion on the matter after the person is finished talking and be content with knowing you may disagree completely, but you can still handle the situation in an adult manner. Later, when things settle down, you’ll be seen as a more mature individual than someone who loses their temper on a whim and without notice.
Let’s say your friend is having a hard time in different areas right now and you know she needs more of your listening ear than she usually does. The best way to be a good listener to someone is to be available. If you act too busy, or listen to her talk about her issues to you while you’re in rush hour traffic or on your way into the office or another meeting, then she’ll feel like she is in the way. She also probably won’t feel comfortable talking with you as often as important matters if she feels you’re too busy for her. Making yourself available is one of the best ways to be a better listener and all you have to do is clear your schedule and make time to listen to other people. Pencil in a coffee date or lunch date on your calendar with your friends, or whoever else you’re trying to listen more to. They’ll feel they have your undivided attention and be more apt to come to you on a regular basis.
When someone is talking to you, remember to be kind when you do respond to them. Even if you disagree with them, it isn’t always necessary to create an argument or cause conflict by telling them how wrong they are in a rude manner. Be kind to them and offer your advice and opinion, while still being respectable.
While you should be kind and respectful, you should also give some responsible advice. What does this mean exactly? Maybe you don’t like their boyfriend that they are having trouble with. Don’t let your opinion of him cause you to put him down in front of your friend just because you don't like him. Instead, give responsible advice by presenting the facts to them. For example, let’s say your friend is upset because her boyfriend didn’t return her call two nights in a row. Instead of telling her to ditch him, or just not offer any advice, give her responsible advice to confront him about it without losing her temper, but still let him know she is bothered by his actions. This way, she is still taking up for herself, but not going to extremes. You can still offer legitimate advice that will help her, without necessarily trying to control her actions. In the case he is hurting her physically or verbally, then you should tell her to find help, or help her find professional help to assist in getting her out of the relationship. These are examples of responsible advise, not burning his clothes on his front lawn when you find out he's a cheater!
One of the best tips I ever learned was to create listening opportunities for people that normally wouldn’t have confided in me. For example, I had a co-worker who was obviously having a difficiult time. Everyone knew it, but they individual wouldn’t openly talk about it. I respected their personal business, but at the same time, could tell they needed someone to talk to and felt very alone. It was also affecting their work as well, so instead of being nosey and prying into their life, I simply created a listening opportunity. What did I do? I left a note on their desk that simply said “Here if you need to talk” with a huge smiley face and left it inside a coffee mug. You know what happened? They immediately came to me the next day in the coffee break room and said they appreciated me noticing their struggles while also respecting their privacy and then confided in me about what they were dealing with.
The most important thing of all, right alongside letting someone speak before interrupting them, is remaining confidential in what they tell you. No matter what they tell you, do not repeat it for anything to someone else without their permission. Being a good listener is also about being trustworthy. No one wants to talk to the office gossip queen or family member who stirs up dissension among others. Be respectful, honest and remain confidential.
Being a good listener is really quite easy with a few practice trials. Remember, you can be as good of a listener as you want, as long as you try. Do you have any tips for being a good listener?
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