Have you heard that saying, “God gave us one mouth and two ears?” That saying means that humans should listen twice as much as they speak!
Listening–truly listening–requires discipline. You have to bracket your own “stuff”. You are not allowed to problem solve or to talk about yourself. You genuinely hear what the other person has said–the spoken and the unspoken.
You are giving the speaker non-verbal cues that you are listening. You maintain appropriate eye contact. You might nod your head or make subtle affirming noises from time to time. You aren’t looking at your laptop or your phone, that’s for sure.
Reflective listening is a powerful tool for connection. In reflective listening, you listen and repeat what you have heard speaker. Teaching reflective listening in a blog post is a little challenging. Let’s give it a whirl with a sample dialogue.
Person: I am so tired. The baby was up all night teething. At least, I think she was fussy because she was teething.
Me: That sounds like a long night.
Person: It sure was. My partner is on a business trip so I am on my own with the baby. Two more nights to go.
Me: Not much sleep for you for the next few nights, I am guessing.
Person: You’ve got that right. And I am already worn out. My partner travels a lot for work. I work, too. I sometimes wish that one of us would quit and stay home with the baby. Maybe we would both be better rested!
Even though I wrote the exchange, it reflects my experience of how people will begin to tell you more of their story when you indicate that you are listening.
Reflective listening requires practice. It can feel awkward or robotic at first. Keep at it! People will show if you got it right. You may see a head nodding “yes” or hear the speaker say, “Exactly!” when you are on the mark. The speaker will often say more. If you have missed the mark, the speaker will often correct you with a “No” and repeat the statement. The speaker might try to say the same thing in a slightly different way. Too many failures on the listener’s part and the speaker might change the subject or quit talking altogether.
Give reflective listening a try–you can do it!