It’s just one little thing. But it’s also a big thing.
It’s a cliché, but it’s true: the greatest gift you can give someone is to truly listen to them.
Last year I learned to listen. I mean, really listen. Listen without judgement or interruption, and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
I’m a communicator. I have a big mouth and strong opinions and I like to share – probably too much at times. So when I embarked on this journey, it was with the recognition that the hardest part for me was likely to be remembering to zip my lips.
We’ve probably all resolved to listen better – most likely after reading a blog post like this, or as a result of having to give or receive feedback during an appraisal. We might manage for a while, but quite quickly, life overtakes us and the business of ‘doing’ drowns out the good intentions. I’ve been there all too often.
If you’re serious about learning to listen appreciatively and generously, there are a few things you can do:
- Get qualified as a coach. There are a number of associations that provide guidance. This is a great route if you want to become a coach, or you work in HR.
- Read. A quick online search will reveal thousands of options. Your problem may well be one of too much choice.
- Volunteer for a listening charity. You’ll be trained by people who have loads of experience with delivering high quality, non-judgemental listening. There’s a time commitment involved, but it’s time well spent.
Things I have learned from learning to listen:
- You don’t have to tell people what to do – if you listen well enough and let them talk about their problem, they’re quite likely to work it out for themselves.
- If you do try to tell them what to do, it’s far less likely to work. You’ll be giving them your solution – not theirs.
- The listener gains as much as the speaker in most cases. An appreciation that the problems in your life are really not as bad as your thought they were, Belief that you have made someone else’s life easier, the list goes on and on.
- Everyone has something valuable to share. Insights come from unexpected places if you give them space to develop.
- Learning to listen is not the end – its just a start. It has led me to explore mindfulness and the development my own, better quality, thinking space.
In all sorts of ways, learning to listen, really listen, could benefit you in 2016 and it’s worth considering giving yourself a listening JOLT.