Hello? Is anybody listening?

Over the past few weeks, I've been teaching a course in health care communication to a group of international students at the local community college. One module was on effective listening.

What has struck me since that module, is the number of times during the course good listening skills have arisen. In almost every other conversation we've had, the art of listening has been key. When the group presentation assignment came around, one group chose this as the topic.

The ability to listen -- to really listen -- affects our relationships, the decisions we make, how well we engage others, how we show empathy and respect.

Great listening means doing more than waiting to speak. It means putting your biases aside and opening your mind to hear not only what's being said but what's behind what's being said. It's about being curious and wanting to understand another person's point of view.

"Seek first to understand," as Stephen Covey wrote in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

One of the things that I have loved most is the idea that to listen is to give a gift -- the gift of hearing someone out. How often do we walk away after a conversation, feeling like we haven't been heard at all? To feel heard is to feel understood and that's a wonderful thing.

So, tips for listening well?
  • Commit to listen and get into a receptive mindset.
  • Understand your biases and learn to put them aside.
  • Don't assume or pre-judge.
  • Cultivate the desire to learn about someone else (or from someone else).
  • Don't nitpick the details. Listen for the big picture.
  • Be patient.
It's a gift you can give to others, but I believe it's also a gift you give yourself.



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