Have you ever been chatting with someone and kind of “woke up” in the middle of the conversation? Or maybe you had a dialogue at work and then couldn’t remember anything about it just a half hour later?
You might be thinking: “Listening is automatic, right?” Nope. Hearing is automatic; listening is a learned skill. Those who are best at it, do best in all their relationships – from work to romance to parenting.
According to communication expert, Rebecca Shafir, people only remember about 25 percent of what someone said, just a few minutes after a conversation is over.
I’m going to help you drastically change that number so you can create connected, happy, loving relationships in your life.
It’s not hard—you just have to employ some simple guidelines and this framework to be a communication rock star in no time!
The Five Steps to Great Listening
Step One: Set the Scene
There are two things you need to focus on when you set the scene for awesome listening:
- Timing: Effective listening requires time. Make sure you have time and you’re not rushed. You don’t want to be glancing at your watch or feeling impatient if you’re trying to listen and communicate effectively. Don’t talk late at night after a long day. Also, having enough time doesn’t mean endless time. Have a time limit – don’t talk for five hours about something; it’s too hard to listen for that long!
- Distractions: Effective listening means you are only doing that, not multi-tasking. Don’t be in an environment with lots of other things pulling at your attention (i.e., cell phone, kids, coworkers, laundry, hunger).
Step Two: Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
Check in with yourself before you start the conversation. If that’s not possible, check in as soon as you can. This means being fully present in your own mind and body. How are you feeling emotionally? Are you noticing any tightness or changes in your body?
Mindfulness encourages you to be aware of the present moment, and to let go of distractions and your physical and emotional reactions to what’s being said to you. When you’re not mindful, you can be distracted by your own thoughts and worries and fail to see and hear what other people are doing and saying.
Do your best to listen without judging what the other person is saying or what you’re thinking or feeling.
Step Three: Set Intention
I also call this the 18-Second Pause. It just takes a few moments to set your intention for how you want the conversation to go. You can do this easily by asking, “What’s my end game?” How do you want to feel at the end of this talk? Have that fully formed in your mind first.
Step Four: Focus!
In Step One you set the scene to have as few distractions as possible. Now it’s about focusing on what the other person is actually saying. The other person has 100 percent of your attention, and you’re actively thinking about what the other person is saying.
Step Five: Evaluate Before Responding
In this final step, you’re evaluating how you’re feeling before responding to what’s being said. If you notice that you’re suddenly feeling anxious or angry, you’re noticing those feelings and getting a handle on them before responding. What’s yours and what’s theirs? Are you responding to what’s happening right now, or is this something old that’s getting churned up in you?
One of the best things you can do here is listen like you’re wrong. In other words, be curious first and foremost, and let go of being right.
When You Do Speak
When you do speak, here are some general guidelines to help you connect and communicate well.
- Ask questions to clarify meaning. Be sure you understand what’s being said. “Can you tell me more about X?” “What did you mean when you said Y?”
- Reflect back first and foremost. “What I heard you saying is…”
- Don’t interrupt. This usually means you need to slow down and don’t assume you know what the other person’s going to say.
- Before responding, check in: “Are you ready for some feedback?” “Is there anything else you wanted to say?”
- Don’t rehearse what you’re going to say. You can’t listen fully if you’re thinking of your response.
When you truly listen by following these steps, your fear response will diminish so you’ll be able to retain information and remember what was said. Before you know it, you’ll be a communication rock star!