Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Value of Attentiveness in Listening

Have you ever talked to someone only to receive an unenthusiastic “uh huh,” a rapid redirection to themselves, or even worse- silence? How do you as the speaker feel- ignored, unimportant, a bother? Eventually the point is understood and conversation ceases. That scenario is to demonstrate understanding. When you’re in the role of the listener, what message does your chosen response send to the speaker?

                Young children are taught to look at the person speaking to show they are listening. With their ordinarily active hands still and eyes focused, the message has a greater chance of success. Listening becomes the primary activity. Somewhere along the line in life this concept becomes lost. Instead, it is acceptable to fidget with whatever is in our hands (uh hem..phones) and look elsewhere. If an individual has to ask you if you’re paying attention or listening or repeat him/herself, then that’s the alarm telling you that your attentiveness and listening skills are lacking. Although there are many tasks that can be accomplished by multi-tasking, but proper listening is rarely one of them.

                Strengthening listening skills is important even as an adult because of the potential to impact another person positively or negatively. When you are attentive to listening properly you are conveying to the speaker that he/she and what is being said is important and valuable. In our world of convenience genuine conversation has followed suit. Sadly, it can be tough at times to find someone in which to confide or talk. Yet, connection with others is vital to life. If communication has otherwise been an area of neglect, then there are steps (i.e. habits) that can be taken to remedy the issue:

  •       Stop what you’re doing and look at the individual when he/she is speaking. Talking around you isn’t the same as talking to you.

  •       Ask questions to move the conversation further. Be careful not to base the questions on comparison or make the individual feel as though he/she is being interrogated. If you’re focused on being genuinely interested in the speaker, then you’ll have no problem forming the right questions.

  •      Continue listening and being engaged even with the talk becomes prattle. Sometimes prattle results because the individual is trying every topic conceivable to get your attention. So, give him/her your attention. In time he/she will be secure enough to not speak out of desperation.
  •      Resist inserting too much about you or a similar experience you had. This response can be helpful at times in providing the element of relate-ability.   However, too much of a good thing can be bad. When excess content about you and your life or experiences are given, the conversation is redirected in focus from the speaker to you.
  •       Also resist the urge to “fix” things unless requested by the speaker. Sometimes issues just need to be spoken without the intention of immediate resolution. Unless indicated by the speaker, don’t jump in with how you would handle things.

  •      Be encouraging! If the individual is sharing about a difficult time or situation, you can be empathetic without jumping into the pit yourself. Be the person who will be comforting while also helping pull him/her out of it. There is plenty of discouragement in the world and in life, and so strive to be a source of encouragement!

The heart of all of these is to be attentive and loving to the individual with whom you’re speaking. That individual selected you to talk to because he/she cares about you and felt that you would be the best person with whom to talk. Feel honored by that consideration and respond accordingly. It can be a struggle at times to devote our attention so purposefully, but endeavors such as this are always, always worth it. The next time someone is speaking to you, consider if you are being accepting or dismissive in response. It’s about the heart. Strive to build it and not break it. 

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1 comment:

  1. Attentive listening is such an important skill in every aspect of life. Thankyou for this reminder. I'll have to more mindful of the way I listen especially to my husband and children.
    Thanks! Ruth


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