We live in a world where everybody has a microphone. On a daily basis, we find ourselves under a deluge of information and perspectives; voices screaming over one another to be heard in a culture of constant noise.
We live in a world where we’re used to vying for attention, and the habit of competing for the last word or the winning opinion seeps in and erodes at our relationships until we no longer feel safe or valued. Perhaps it’s time we re-learned what it means to be a good listener.
The Importance of Listening
In a society where everyone is competing to be heard, the art of listening without the agenda to respond is a foreign concept, but one that deserves to be studied for several reasons.
Listening validates the worth of others. Even in an instance when you may disagree, being willing to hear someone out shows that they matter to you. We can all attest to the feeling of validation that comes with being listened to.
Listening demonstrates honor. In our generation, honor has become a lost art. We’ve become so self-focused that we’ve forgotten how to show respect to those around us, and the simple act of listening goes a long way toward honoring others.
Listening helps us gain understanding. Too often, we listen solely for the purpose of constructing a response. This type of “listening” does nothing to validate or honor our relationships. Instead, we need to be focused on listening to learn.
The Secret to Being an Expert Listener
We’ve lost the ability to listen so much so that we often define it as simply being quiet while another person talks. But listening—truly—involves much more than that. It’s the act of giving one’s attention to something; attention defined as: “regarding someone or something with interest or importance” and “taking special care of [them].”
Being a good listener is not passive. So what’s the secret?
It’s simple, really. We must learn to engage in the conversation—not by dishing out our opinions, but by asking good questions: seeking to understand. We need to learn to ask questions that are:
Remember your goal. When you learn to ask good questions, you open up a safe place for others to share their feelings and opinions with you, and by doing so, you build trust in your relationship.
I want you to challenge yourself today: when you find yourself in a position to listen, don’t focus on how you’re going to respond. Instead, challenge yourself to ask questions like, “How do you feel about that?” or “Help me understand what you mean?” Focus on understanding the situation rather than influencing it, and it will transform the conversation.
- Do you tend to be a good listener?
- What types of questions do you ask when listening to others?
- How has being listened to impacted you?
- What was the best question someone ever asked you?