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Two Ears – One Mouth

  • March 16, 2022
  • Written by Community Futures Meridian

The heart of true communication lies in listening, not speaking. That’s why you often hear, “you were given two ears and only one mouth for a reason.”

“To say that a person feels listened to means a lot more than just their ideas get heard. It’s a sign of respect. It makes people feel valued.” — Deborah Tannen, author and professor of linguistics, Georgetown University

To fully understand people, you need to listen without judgment, avoid jumping in with comments and resist filling in any blanks in what they are saying. You should also focus on listening rather than planning what you will say next.

Here are six ways to help you become a better listener.

  • Avoid interrupting. Before asking a relevant question or offering your thoughts, wait for a pause in the conversation; this shows respect for the speaker. When you interrupt without a good reason, you send the message that what the other person is saying doesn’t matter or isn’t worthwhile.
  • Give your full attention. By ensuring no distractions (cell phones, computers, etc.), you demonstrate that you care about what the other person has to say.
  • Ask open-ended questions. To ensure you understand their position ask open-ended questions; these encourage a deeper conversation with greater comprehension. An example might be, “What is important to you about this decision?” Open-ended questions discourage a simple yes or no answer and elicit more profound and thoughtful responses.
  • Listen without giving advice or trying to solve their problem. When you genuinely listen and ask meaningful questions, you demonstrate that you are doing so without judgment. Acting in this way helps the speaker solve their problem on their own.
  • Restate what they have said. An excellent way to ensure you have heard a person correctly is to restate or rephrase what they have said. For example, you might say, “Is this what you meant?”
  • Put yourself in their shoes. Empathy goes a long way to help understand and appreciate another person’s point of view.

“To learn through listening, practice it naively and actively. Naively means that you listen openly, ready to learn something, as opposed to listening defensively, ready to rebut. Listening actively means you acknowledge what you heard and act accordingly.”— Betsy Sanders, former senior vice president and general manager, Nordstrom

Paul Abra, Motivated Coaching

More in this category: « Challenging Your Perspectives

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