I always thought of myself as a good listener, but I’m not. None of us are.
I listen and (might) let you finish as a courtesy. But, while you spoke, I contemplated what I would say next. I speak as if you never did.
I’m paying attention to you.
I'm also paying attention to your expression, your appearance, the people around me, the food in front of me, my phone, the television in the distance, the sounds from the street and the thoughts in my head.
It’s because the minute you began talking, I knew what you’d say. No news to me.
I’ve heard it before, so I don’t need to consider it. I’ve faced something so similar and striking I must tell you.
We all have great intentions, but it’s easy to lose focus. We can’t hear another without promptly presenting advice or mingling in what they say with what we wish to say.
Listening has always been a tricky trait to master, and it’s become especially crucial now.
We live in a world where no one listens, and the results are alarming.
Midst Generation-Y, depression is already an epidemic. According to a United Nations World Health Organization report, “Depression is the predominant cause of illness and disability for both boys and girls aged 10 to 19 years.”
WHO projects that, by 2030, more lives will be lost to depression than cancer, stroke or war.
We’ve been progressively replacing intimate, face-to-face relations with superficial virtual ones.
Conversations comprise of individual self-representative monologues. No one is listening. We’re simply alone, chatting with ourselves.
When I began volunteering at a suicide hotline, I was doubtful of its approach: just listen.
This concept of “humanistic therapy,” conceived by psychologist Carl Rogers in the 1950s, states clients' conditions could improve if therapists, rather than analyzing and medicating, optimistically listened to patients.
For over 90 percent of calls received at the hotline, this method worked. Having just someone in the world who truly listens to you can allow you to mend your life, seek help and recover.
The more I observed my daily life, the more I realized how little people need my opinion.
My friend isn’t approaching me for an authority in life; he comes to me for our friendship. Instead of fixing him, I should just listen to him.
I must be fully in the moment and focus on what he’s saying. It requires time and quiet to comprehend what I hear.
It does not only need silence from outside; it needs silence from within. Then you begin to listen to what was missing.
Bear in mind these four principles for being a good listener:
1. Accept Unconditionally
Everyone wants to be accepted, but it often comes with conditions.
We can adapt and change to fit them, but it won’t equate being unconditionally accepted for who you are.
Accepting isn’t agreeing or complying to do the same. You mustn’t approve the actions to accept the person.
So, be the one your friends can tell everything to, without the worry of being judged or criticized.
Listen to your family without labeling or scrutinizing them. Disregard your personal beliefs, and grant them the relief to just be.
2. Respect Completely
As we listen, our undeniable desire to interfere arises. The well-intentioned opinions, warnings and pieces of advice tied with our particular experiences are meant to help our friends and family members.
They may have even asked for your advice, but consider this: What is best for us may not be best for others.
We’re all unique. We feel, think and handle our problems differently. Interfering is judgmental by nature; it’s the underlying sense they’re wrong and you know better.
Respect is to acknowledge their rights to their own logic. It’s listening to others as equals without superiority.
So let them mourn, let them lash out and let them complain. Respect their moment.
Allow them to feel normal. Help them explore their routes, but don’t drive them there. Only they can.
3. Try To Understand
Listening is more than hearing words; it’s understanding meaning.
It requires empathy to place yourself in their shoes, feel coordinated with their emotions and strive to see it from their points of view.
Everyone has, at some point, felt misunderstood. We have all experienced the condemnation of others without efforts to empathize.
You can never be completely inside someone else's mind, but merely trying to shows how much you care.
4. Believe In Them
We are experts in our own lives. This is the core reasoning in the humanistic therapy approach. Carl Rogers regarded everyone as a “potentially competent individual.”
When you listen, you’re accepting, respecting and attempting to understand that individual. You make it about the other, not you.
If you grant the people in your life the time and space to ponder, they’ll be able to reach resolutions to their problems that are fitting for them.
You’re providing the conditions so they attain the strength to sort it all out. You mustn't do it for them, but you must believe they can get there on their own.
So next time, just listen.