Do you find yourself misunderstanding what your spouse or work colleague say to you? Do you find yourself questioning your responses to them? Most people hear others speaking to them, but most of the time our interactions are not focused and we may listen to people speak, without truly hearing what they want to say to us. Learning how to listen is a skill that helps us to clear our mind of thoughts and behaviours that may interrupt our ability to hear what the other person is trying to say, rather than what we think they are saying.
Learning how to listen to people around us is also a journey of self-discovery. Instead of responding to people’s comments and thoughts as a reaction, we take the time to understand what they are saying and in thinking about how their words are impacting us, we are identifying the natural way react to people’s words and think about how we would prefer to react to them.
We can then develop and practice self-control techniques, to assist us to respond more appropriately to anything people may say to us.
You may have heard active listening referred to as reflective listening. It involves listening to others around us talk to us and taking time out to ensure we understand their words and the meanings behind those words. We ask questions like “so you mean this.” to reflect back to the person what we think they said. We use words like “I feel angry when you say that” rather than lashing out in anger and using a “you” phrase like “you always do this.
Our focus is not on the words spoken but on the person speaking and what they meant by their words. This way of listening can take some getting used to, but once we learn this skill will change the way we relate to people and interact with them, and learn about ourselves in the process.