Learn how to listen

I would like to share one true story with you, maybe we could all learn something from it. I have a friend, she is hairdresser. She said to me that most of the ladies who are visiting her salon, are behaving like they came to a psychologist and not to the hairdresser. Going to the hairdresser for them is a kind of escape from their everyday routine. Of course all of them have something to say about their problems or interesting events of their lives. And as soon as they sit on that chair they start to prattle immediately about almost everything. My friend said even she has the full understanding of her costumers’ problems and needs, she also has her own issues and worries in life. So, most of the time she chooses to not listen carefully what those ladies are talking about. She just occasionally nods and says: ” Oh, how nice!” or ”Really?” or ”This is just great!”.  By the time this daily routine just come so natural for her. So even in the beginning of this routine she was hearing some of the things that they were mumbling, with daily practicing she managed to totally escape from the place with her thoughts just to have a peace of mind while working.

Photo by me Bruges Belgium

But one day, she found herself in very unpleasant situation because of this. It was when she actually answer with ”Wow, this is so great!”  to one of her costumers who was telling her about how sad she was, because she buried her younger sister just few days ago and that her sister past away after coping with cancer for several years. That was very odd. So immediately after my friend replied, that lady gave her a weird and angry look, and ask her: ”Are you serious, what can possible be nice and great about it? You are not listening to me at all, aren’t you?” My friend then realized that something went wrong and she felt embarrassed. Of course she started to apologizing, but damage was done and her dirty little secret was discovered of course.

Photo by me Belgrade Serbia

The whole story was kind of funny to me. And when I asked her if she started to actually listen her costumers, after this incident, she told me: ”No, I just can’t handle this all day long. Really. It is not an easy thing.”  She had such an innocent look on her face, I just can’t help to not laugh with all my heart. I find her story very inspirational so I decided to share it with you and write an article regarding listening and importance of listening in our every day communication.

Photo by me The Hague The Netherlands

To be able to understand others, first we have to learn how to pay attention, how to look and listen so we can acknowledge the message that has been sent to us. Take look this interesting video to test your attention in general.

According to International journal of listening 2006 (p.5.), 95% of all that we learn in life comes through our eyes and our ears. 70% of the day we spend communicating, and last but not least 45% from 70% that we spend on communicating is related to hearing. Of course we have to stress the difference between hearing and listening.

Photo by me The Hague The Netherlands

We hear automatically, but we listen by choice. So listening is the process where we receive and shape the message from the sender and we answer to it with words or with body language. We can also choose to not listen , like my friend did, but we have to be ready for the consequences, because this can bring various unpleasantness.

Photo by me Bruges Belgium

So again according to the International journal of listening 1996 (p.1.) it has to do with perceiving the message and not just with hearing. I have to admit that many times in my life I also didn’t  listen carefully what others were saying. What about you?

Statistics say that when we listen somebody for 10 minutes, the most of us receives only 50% of information, 48 hours later we remember only 25% of what we heard. The fact is that we could all become better listeners if we try to.

So if you choose to listen what others say to you but you still have some difficulties in the process you can follow this few simple tips.

1. Prepare yourself physically, be ready to listen. 

Relax. Clear your mind of distracting thoughts. You can also sit up straight to show that you’re present and attentive. Your physical engagement is able to send message to your mind so you can focus on the speaker.

Photo by me Leiden -The Netherlands

2. Proper listening is not passive, but active.

You can become active listener by looking the speaker in the eyes. If you talk on the phone, try to focus on the conversation. Let the person know you’re getting what they’re saying. You can nod or provide feedback of what you hear by paraphrasing with your own words to be sure that you understood well. Pay attention to the other person very carefully. I know sometimes is quite difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying, especially if that someone is your boss, your coach or your mom. It is important to let the other person know that you are listening to what he or she is saying. You don’t have to necessarily agree with the person, but you do have to indicate that you are paying attention. It is also wise to encourage the speaker to continue speaking, so that you can get all the information you need. Try to listen with your eyes to figure out speaker’s  body language. You should also use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.

Photo by me Leiden -The Netherlands

3. Definition of two-way communication

Two-way communication involves feedback from the receiver to the sender. I found on Wikpedia this interesting definition: ”Two-way communication is a form of transmission in which both parties involved transmit information.” So, it is important to be engaged in the conversation. Don’t let the speaker to have a feeling that he or she is talking to the wall.

4. Don’t be focused only on your own stuff

Most of us are focused on our own things, during the conversation. If you are focused only on how you are going to reply when someone is talking to you, then you are not able to truly listen what the speaker is actually talking about.

Photo by me Leiden -The Netherlands

5. Be psychically prepared

It takes a lot of concentration and determination to become an active listener. Sometimes we have to talk with people that we do not necessary like or respect, so we usually have difficulties to hide our prejudices and our feelings towards this person. This is also one of the reasons we often have to be psychically prepared to listen and hear something we do not necessary like to hear.

Photo by me Leiden -The Netherlands

6. Practice listening

You can pretend that you will be tested on how much of what they were saying you heard and understood. A good exercise to practice is to sit down with a family member or a good friend and practice simply giving feedback to them of what you heard them say. You will notice that it gets much easier to focus on their words when you aren’t worrying about how you will respond.

Photo by me Badhoevedorp The Netherlands

7. Show your interest, develop curiosity

People who are naturally curious see conversations as learning opportunities. They are open to the idea that their own way of seeing things may not be the only one, or necessarily the best one. This kind of people don’t feel the need to always defend their own point of view. So focus and try to see the listening as the opportunity to continue yourself-development journey.

Photo by me Badhoevedorp The Netherlands

8. Avoid distraction

While listening you will very often be distracted by noises from the background, different objects or your own thoughts. So try to set aside all other thoughts and noise and concentrate on the message.

9. Avoid interrupting

Let the speaker finish their point before you reply. Don’t rush. Interruptions can create a wall between you and the speaker, making it hard to communicate successfully.

Photo by me Bruges Belgium

10. Practice art of Mirroring

You can show that you’re engaged in listening by responding with matching expressions. Reflect their feelings by responding with a smile if they smile. With sadness if they are sad etc. In other words, show some empathy. I’l share a quote by Christopher Hills regarding mirroring technique.

”When we mirror we are trying to reflect back what the other person’s being is saying behind the words, which may be something very different to what is said to you in words.
You develop a skill to mirror back the feelings you pick up from other people as well as their words, so they feel that you are at one with them and can feel their hearts.”
Christopher Hills

Photo by me Bruges Belgium

Effective listening is a secret that saves jobs, marriages and families from breakups and breakdowns. So let’s review the most important facts:




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