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The love that is in listening

“It's taken me 11 years to teach my husband to listen to me without trying to fix everything,” came one comment in response to last week's post.

“I finally said, ‘just LISTEN! Don't do anything. I just need to feel understood. Understood?”

Listening without interruption, unsolicited response or advice (no matter how well intended) is all too rare.

People tend to feel more comfortable/useful/important when they are ‘chiming in'.

But being heard is a vital need. As author David Augsburger puts it, “being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.”

So here are a couple of tools and tips to help improve our listening skills:

Ask don't tell

Rather than jumping in with our stuff, ask the speaker more about what they are sharing.

Get curious, putting aside any ‘solutions' that come to mind, and seek clarity until you understand what the speaker really wants you to hear.

Relationship expert, Harville Hendrix suggests we check-in by repeating back what we've heard (without getting into any response), and asking, “did I get it? … Is there more about that?”

Know they're heard

Acknowledging the logic in what they are saying helps validate the speaker, “I can hear that you feel x considering what you explained about y.” Again, reserving personal judgment. Empathise with the speaker saying something like, “I imagine you might feel x … Is that how you feel?”

When the speaker has truly said their piece and we have understood it, then we can ask if it's OK to respond.

Ask the reason

Sometimes the speaker has a message, sometimes they just need to get something off their chest. Other times they may be looking for advice, opinions, a cheerleader … If in doubt, why not ask them?

Meanwhile, heightening our awareness as we listen allows us to better receive all the information being offered. One tool is the ‘What, Who, How' model that I learnt from Kat Coppell:

When listening, start to define all the aspects of WHAT we are hearing.

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What are the facts/data in what is being said?

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What are the emotions I am hearing?

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What are the values being expressed by the speaker?

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What are the intentions being stated?

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When we can discern these different elements and listen to them all together, we have more options if we are called on to respond, and can address each aspect being shared.

We also need to be aware of WHO we are listening to. There is the speaker, but also our internal thoughts, perhaps distractions or noises in the room. Awareness of the different ‘voices' influencing this listening creates a more complete picture of how we are being affected by it.

HOW we are listening will also affect our perceptions of what is being said. The questions here are:

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Who am I being during this listening? Friend or foe?

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Where am I standing in judgment as I listen and how is it affecting what I hear?

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Listening is like a muscle, the more we use it, the stronger it gets. Let's practise better listening and share the love.

If you are struggling to talk without interjections, agendas or fixing, getting some coaching is a great opportunity to be heard.

•Julia Pitt is a trained Success Coach and certified NLP practitioner on the team at Benedict Associates. For further information contact Julia on (441) 705-7488, www.juliapittcoaching.com.

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Published September 21, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated September 20, 2016 at 10:04 pm)

The love that is in listening

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