Are You Really Listening?
How important is good listening? Is it an essential skill, or is it optional?
At a recent workshop, a group of CLAC staff shared what it felt like when we were listened to well, and conversely, when we didn't feel listened to. I’ve put the group's answers into word clouds in the photo gallery. The biggest words in the word clouds are the ones mentioned most often.
When people are not listened to, they feel angry, frustrated, and unimportant.
But when you listen to someone, you make them feel valued, loved, and validated.
When we're the speaker, we can clearly tell the difference between good listening and poor listening. The difficult thing is being the good listener. Throughout our workshop, we practiced listening to each other and continually found it really hard to get it right. But with some practice, we learned some simple lessons. For example, try not to interrupt, diagnose, or give advice and cheap assurances. Really stay with the person, check for understanding, ask open-ended questions, and resist temptations to draw the conversation to you and your own experiences.
Listening has been taught in countless workshops and is considered one of the most basic skills. But getting it right does take practice, and we may have to unlearn some bad habits along the way. From the word clouds above, it’s pretty clear how painful it is when we don’t listen, and how taking the time to listen well is an enormous (free) gift. I'd say that's reason enough to say it's essential for all of us to learn and practice the basics.