Do you know the difference between listening to someone, and actually hearing them? Perhaps you already know the value of being a good listener, if so, you are probably a lead, or manager in your company. Perhaps you are the go-to friend when someone needs to “sound-board” something going on in their lives. Listening will land you into very valuable places, but hearing people will change your life.
The key differentiator between listening (using your ears), and hearing (using your heart) is that you can feel empathy, not just understand it. You don’t necessarily need to have an empathetic approach on life to give it to a person in a given situation. For example, let’s say that someone comes to you with their relationship problems. They mention that they are “struggling”, or having “difficulty” with something, or someone within the relationship. Basic logic will tell you that this person isn’t happy, and they want to seek a resolution, which in return will make everything better? Wrong.
Being empathetic starts with forgetting everything you know (taking off your shoes), and starting from scratch (putting on theirs). You may have a lot of experience in relationships, or better yet, a relationship expert, but, if helping people based upon your own experiences is your go-to move, then you already have failed to hear the situation.
What should I do?
In order to really hear a friend in need, start by imagining yourself being that person. Who is this person? Where does this person live? What does this person do? Why does she (he) do it? Inherently, when we start thinking, its “us” who thinks with “our” own mind, which makes it an extremely difficult task to think like, or, for someone else. When you can start understanding that this isn’t about you, only then can you begin to help people in a way that is truly beneficial for them.
The silent observer
Use your eyes like you’ve never used them. Look at the details, their facial expressions, their posture when they communicate. Are they slouching, or, in a firm “battle-ready” position? Are they smiling, or frowning? Is she moving a lot because she is uncomfortable sharing such important information, or is she still? How can you really know what is happening if you are so ready to interrupt? This is not easy to do, in fact, western culture would say that interrupting someone whom is speaking could “improve the conversation“. We only seek to improve something that we feel is imperfect, or needs improving.
Win the Oscar for “Best Detective”
In order to solve a problem, or crime in the case of the expected understanding of a detective’s responsibilities, you must start by gather all necessary clues before publicly stating your hypothesis, or making an audacious claim. So why is it that we believe we have the answer before knowing all the facts? You are not entirely the one to blame in this case, as the need of instant gratification has changed our world to expect things (answers) with more immediacy. When Jane Doe has a problem, she wants that problem solved, yesterday, and you would only be doing her a disservice by not having an immediate response for her problem.
Take a risk. We dare you to try listening to the entirety of someone’s request without interrupting. You may have an immediate answer, but thats expected. Be different, tell your friend, or colleague that you “heard what they said, and you think it is important, and so it may be beneficial if you sit on it for a little while”. Chances are that they will be surprised, and even seem disappointed, but there is a short-term, and long-term solution for this. Give them something to hold onto, start by responding with something light, give them authentic emotion, reactions, point them in the right direction. In addition to giving them an immediate “response”, you can tell them that you will in fact think about it, and get back to them with a more thoughtful solution.
By delaying the solution, you will have two options remaining:
- You can, and will lose all trust, and credibility if you don’t follow-up with your friends in the pre-determined response time, or in a timely manner.
- You can gain more credibility and trust, if you do in fact follow-up within the pre-determined response time, or in a timely manner.
When you invest time the time into something that deserves it , chances are that you will make fewer mistakes. When you actually do some research into your friends’ problem, people will see that you invested into their initiative. This does wonders for any relationship that you have. To them it feels like you took on their problem as yours, and in collaboration helped them to find a “potentially useful solution”. At the end of the day, everything is about them, not you.
If you can master the art of hearing versus listening, it can do wonders to your relationships, and to your career. The sky is the limit, and the opportunities are endless. Next time around, hear don’t listen, it’s what the world needs now.
Thank you for reading!
Thank you for reading!
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