BY: SIMONE JENNIFER SMITH
Welcome back Toronto! So; were you able to take a moment to think about our topic last week? Did you take in how hard it is to listen to someone, and how you may not be as good of a listener as you thought you were? Last week we delved into what active listening is, and we provided scenarios and examples of how communication sounds like in the majority of relationships in our community. I am going to give you a quick summary of what was discussed last week so that those who were unable to read the last edition will have some context for this week’s finale of the topic, “Why Aren’t You Listening to Me?”
I was able to get my hands on a book written by Carl Rogers, and Richard Farson, that spoke in detail on active listening. Active listening is not just a technique; it must be firmly grounded in the basic attitude of a person. Our spirit has to genuinely respect the potential worth of the individual we are talking to; this includes considering their capacity for self-direction. We are there to listen, not to give advice or voice our opinions (Rogers & Farson, 1957). We learned that active listening does not present a threat to the individual’s self-picture; this means that there is no need to defend it (Rogers & Farson, 1957). We were also instructed to consider the atmosphere of the situation. If the atmosphere feels threatening, there will never be effective communication. The moment we feel that judgment is being passed, whether it is critical or favorable, it makes it difficult to express ourselves freely (Rogers & Farson, 1957). Finally, we learned that listening helps build deep, positive relationships if done well, so this week we will go into how to listen effectively.
One of the first things we need to understand is that listening requires that we get inside of the person who is speaking to us; that we grasp an issue from their point of view, which is terribly difficult to do. We have to get past our own thoughts and think about what the person is communicating to us. More than that, the listener must feel like you are seeing things from their point of view, and you are completely responsible for that (Rogers & Farson, 1957). There are three ways that we can become better at active listening: listen for total meaning, respond to feelings, and note all cues.
- Listening for Meaning
Any message that a person tries to get across usually has a couple of components; the content of the message and the feelings and attitudes behind the message (Rogers & Farson, 1957). You know that saying, “It was not what you said, it was how you said it!” Well, actually it is both. You can usually feel a person’s message, even if the words coming out of the person’s mouth may not match the feeling being projected. It is good to understand the difference because you can actually target what the person is feeling and work with them from the feeling component.
- Respond to Feelings
In most instances, the feelings in a message trump the content of a message. It is this feeling that carries the message of the speaker. You can learn a lot about why someone may be speaking to you a certain way if you can pinpoint the feeling attached to. Another important factor is that you cannot get caught up in their feelings; this takes some emotional intelligence. Each time you listen to someone, you have to remain sensitive to the total meaning the message has to the speaker. You have to question what you have heard: What does this mean to them? What are they trying to tell me? How do they see this situation?
- Note all Cues
One thing that I have learned is that not all communication is verbal. The speaker’s words only tell us about 50% of the story. It is everything else that you have to pay attention to (body language, tone of voice, eye contact, non-eye contact, twitches).
Now that you have taken the Simone Jennifer Smith crash course in listening, I am expecting to speak with you soon; I hope you are listening!.
Rogers, C. R., & Farson, R. E. (1957). Active listening. Industrial Relations Center of the University of Chicago.