As we all work harder to be more inclusive in our circle of friends to make sure there are no more strangers in the ward, we need to make work harder to improve our listening skills. The foundation of great communication is built upon a listening ear.
So, what can we do to improve our listening skills? Here are some easy suggestions:
1. Ask sincere questions. Let’s be honest, there really is such a thing as a dumb question. I would say a dumb question is one where you really don’t care about the answer, you simply used the question to fill a void.
We need to view questions as a treasure map. Questions provide us clues to help us get to know that person with whom you are conversing. So tailor your conversations to give the other person an opportunity to help you get to know them better.
2. Carefully note how your questions are answered. Yes, as you seek to get to know someone better you run the risk of asking something that is too personal. This is not a disaster unless you fail to catch on.
For example, it is typically non-threatening to ask about someone’s family. But let’s assume the person you are trying to get to know just heard that his or her parent’s separated.Well, now a normal question has the potential stir up some raw emotions.
The sensitive person will notice the difficulty of the situation and try to steer the conversation a different direction.
4. Don’t be an expert. When trying to create an atmosphere of open communication, it is frustrating when you automatically assume the role of expert on each topic. No one wants to be around someone who knows everything.
Instead of being an expert, seek to understand why the other person feels the way they do. You don’t have to agree with them. But it is not a good idea to always make your disagreements known.
4. Verify that you clearly understood the answer. Before you assume you understood what someone just said, take the time to verify that you really understood. Sometimes people don’t communicate clearly. Sometimes we don’t listen completely. It is better to ask for clarification than to assume you understood and do the exact opposite of the person expected.
5. Find a way to incorporate what you learned in the relationship. When you discover small nuggets of information, look for ways to meet the other person’s needs by providing them something they mentioned in the conversation. This small act of kindness will go a long way to improve a friendship.
None of this stuff is hard. Just listen.