You can never say the wrong thing while listening.
That’s a valuable lesson I learned after years of putting my foot in my mouth. In fact, I’ve become well known for my listening skills.
Listening can be challenging when you live with ADHD or ASD because your thinking may be very busy, anxious or highly distractible.
But when you learn to calm, be present and focus on the other person, it becomes easier.
What do you believe are the qualities of an effective listener?
Pause for a minute and answer this question for yourself.
Over time, we pick up beliefs about what it means to listen and be listened to.
We run into trouble when trying to communicate with people that have different beliefs about listening than we do.
Have you answered the question for yourself? Great, please continue . . .
According to linguist Roland Barthes, “Hearing is a physiological phenomenon; listening is a psychological act.”
Listening is about interpreting what you hear then making meaning of it based on your rules and experiences.
In fact listening doesn’t even require hearing. Ever met a deaf person, ever read an email? Listening is about shared meaning and understanding.
You likely feel most understood when the person you’re talking to understands your meaning and NOT just your words. Yes?
Well as I work to become an even better listener, here are a list of habits I’ve found particularly useful.
The 11 Habits of Highly Effective Listening
1. Decide how you feel about the person beforehand – If you decide a person will be fascinating, you’re more inclined to pay closer attention.
2. Non-reactivity – Can you keep emotions of upset at bay until you’ve determined whether the person talking meant to upset you? Our emotions interrupt our listening more than we realize.
3. Body listening (e.g. eye contact, posture)
Are you tuned in to how a person uses his/her body to add emphasis to what’s being said?
4. CARE – Care about the person’s need and right to be heard. Whether or not you care about the topic.
5. Be Teachable – Be curious instead of a know it all. Believe that everyone has something to teach you.
6. Clarify, Clarify, Clarify – Make sure you check in with the speaker to be sure you’re understanding the message that is intended.
NOTE: My coaching clients receive step by step instructions on how to do this flawlessly.
7. Focus – Eliminate as many distractions as you can. Remember, you’re fascinated by the person in front of you and want to hear every word s/he says.
8. Pause – Don’t fill your head with the response you want to give, if it’s at the expense of listening. Instead, pause before responding to give yourself a moment to recall, reflect then respond to what you heard.
9. Get Permission – Can I ask you a question? Do you mind if I tangent for a moment then come back to this?
Permission is a sign of respect for the person who’s speaking.
10. Apologize – We all get distracted sometimes, in spite of our best efforts. It usually results in missing something the speaker says.
Remember, the priority is the speaker’s need and right to heard. So when we become distracted, a simple apology can set things right.
e.g. “I’m sorry, my mind was someplace else. What was it you were trying to say?” or “Would you mind repeating the last thing you said, I want to make sure I heard it correctly?”
11. Make statements or make requests
“WOW! What was that like?”
“How did you get started with that?”
“Tell me more about that.”
Statements such as these demonstrate your interest in what the speaker is sharing with you.
Any of these stand out as particularly helpful?