Good communication skills are vital to all our relationships, whether at work or at home, and there is much we can do to make them effective. In ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, Stephen Covey encourages us to “seek first to understand and then to be understood”. Communicating well with one another is vital to understanding and we believe it’s all in how we listen.

So do you really listen?

As human beings, we are well-intentioned and often want to help or even ‘fix’ things for others. Consequently, in our everyday interactions, that can easily become seeking to speak, rather than listening. For example, waiting for the person speaking to pause for breath so we can give our:

  • advice,
  • opinion (including agreeing),
  • story of what we did when something similar happened to us.

In these circumstances neither person is really listening to the other. But, with some thought and awareness, we can learn to listen and really hear people. When we are truly heard, we connect to the person doing the listening and vice versa – which is great for all concerned.

How do we do that?

The type of listening we encourage people to practice on our sessions is ‘Listening Without Commentary’. It comes in two parts:

  • Listening without saying anything – giving our full attention to the other person without needing to say anything at all.
  • Listening without letting our mind wander off – this can be even more challenging than not saying anything. Our minds will wander off – into our own ‘commentary’ of advice, agreement / disagreement etc. and it’s natural for thoughts to arise.

We practice ‘Being Present’ on all our sessions, which is simply the act of taking notice on purpose. When we listen without commentary we bring that awareness to our listening. When you are listening to someone and you notice thoughts appearing in your head, just bring yourself back to listening again. It is possible that you may have to do this again and again. There is no need to judge yourself for this, be kind and gentle and just return to listening.

Our experience is that this can take practice but being able to really listen to someone else is a gift to both them and you. Having space to truly be heard without someone judging you, trying to solve your problems or fix things for you is very helpful. Mostly when we have an opportunity to be listened to we will find a space where we can gain our own clarity about what we would like to do.

Even in everyday conversations the more you can bring yourself to ‘listen without commentary’ when someone else is speaking the better your relationships will become.

Read more, visit our Mental and Emotional Resilience and Total Wellbeing pages.

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