Recently, I was about to ask a question. I suspected that I wouldn’t be given the answer that I was looking for, not because it was an awkward or difficult question, but because I felt the person I was speaking to didn’t really listen to what people were saying. Instead he anticipated what he thought the question was going to be… and then answered that one. His own question, not mine.

I thought carefully about the question as I was going to ask, and made it as precise as I could, but I didn’t get the answer I needed.

t-shirt with I'm thinking about my answer on it

On the same day, I was asked a question and just as I was starting to answer it, the person I was talking to tried to answer it herself and then asked if her answer was right. I said no, started to explain (it really wasn’t anything complicated), but she asked another question and then the same one again.

I don’t know about you, but when this sort of thing happens to me, I start to doubt my ability to speak clearly.

This is a simple example of Stephen Covey’s

“Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply”.

Being an effective listener is largely made up of two parts. The first is reducing barriers to listening, such as not anticipating what someone is going to say, or preparing and answer while someone is speaking – because when you do either of these you are not listening to what the person is saying.

We can also easily remove physical distractions which act as barriers: phone calls, text notifications and interruptions.

The second is about listening carefully. A technique which can help you do this is called ‘Active Listening.

“Active listening is a technique of careful listening and observation of non-verbal cues, with feedback in the form of accurate paraphrasing, that is used in counseling, training, and solving disputes or conflicts.” Source Wikipedia.

We cover both these areas in our Effective/Active Listening video.

While making the video we also came across this poem which seemed so relevant.

Please Listen by Leo Buscaglia

When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving me advice,
you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you begin to tell me why
I shouldn’t feel that way,
you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you feel you have to do something
to solve my problem,
you have failed me,
strange as that may seem.

Listen! All I ask is that you listen.
Don’t talk or do – just hear me…

And I can do for myself; I am not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering,
but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself,
you contribute to my fear and inadequacy.

But when you accept as a simple fact
That I feel what I feel,
No matter how irrational,
Then I can stop trying to convince
You and get about this business
Of understanding what’s behind
This irrational feeling.

And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious and I don’t need advice.
Irrational feelings make sense when
we understand what’s behind them.

So please listen, and just hear me.
And if you want to talk, wait a minute
for your turn– and I will listen to you.

Communication builds and sustains relationships – wherever they are and whoever they’re with.

Being a good listener is a life skill that we can always be worked on and improved.

You might also find our How to communicate with people who have hearing loss (deaf awareness) video interesting.