In past columns we’ve talked a lot about the vital importance of listening. In my communication seminars libertarians are often startled to learn about the power that active, genuine listening can add to our communication efforts.
It is equally important that the person you are conversing with be aware that you are carefully, sincerely and respectfully listening to what he is saying.
Here are some ways you can demonstrate to the other person that you are genuinely listening. These aren’t tricks or gimmicks. Using them will not only show the person that you are listening. You actually will be listening better.
1. Deliberately move away from distractions. Turn off the radio or TV. Put your cell phone away, turn it off, or at least move it further away from you.
2. Make eye contact. This connects you with the speaker. It’s not necessary (or appropriate) to stare at the person, but simply make natural, appropriate eye contact as the person is speaking.
3. Lean forward slightly. This is a natural movement when you are paying attention to something or someone, and the other person intuitively realizes this.
4. Nod when you agree with what the person is saying and/or when you are sure you understand or relate to what the person is saying.
5. Make short remarks when appropriate like, “I see.” “I understand.” “Yes.” “I agree.”
6. When the person finishes, before you start giving your opinion, do one of these three things:
* Ask a question that encourages the person to add to what they were saying.
* Ask a question that gets the person to clarify what they were saying.
* Summarize briefly what you think their major point was, and confirm with them that you are correct.
7. Three DON’T's:
* Don’t lean back and cross your arms over your chest. This indicates an unwillingness to be open to what the other person is saying.
* Don’t interrupt to correct or disagree with what the person is saying. Let them finish.
* Don’t spend your listening time planning on what you will say when they get through. Instead, focus on understanding what they are saying. Really listen.
Surprisingly, these simple techniques are often ignored, and communication suffers badly as a result.
Watch for them in your next few serious conversations. Notice if your listeners are using these indicators of serious listening. See how you feel when they do — and when they don’t.
It takes an awareness of them, and some practice, to use them effectively. But the payoff is worth it. You will find your communication and conversations are greatly improved. And you will win more friends — both for yourself and for the cause of liberty.