05 Apr Stop Doing This If You Want to Be a Better Listener
Being a great listener is the best way to show someone how much you care about them. By listening well, you demonstrate how much you value what they are saying. The problem is that there are few great listeners. We are better talkers than listeners. If you want to become a better listener, there are some things you must learn to stop doing. In this blog post I will describe four different things we do that cause us to be poor at listening. See if you can identify which one you tend to do and how you can stop doing it. You can learn new habits that will make you a better listener. When you become better listener, you will become more helpful to others as well as grow your charisma as a person. Who doesn’t want to be around someone who listens well?
Here are four different ways we fail as listeners. Most of us gravitate to one of the four, but we may struggle with more than one of them. Read through the listening problems and see if you can identify not only what you do, but why you do it. Then we will share some tips on how to overcome these bad habits that keep us from listening well.
The Fixer. This person is easy to recognize because before you even finish sharing what you are dealing with, they have a solution to your problem. You want to be heard and understood, but they just want to fix your problem, so they feel good about themselves. They are good at solving problems and want to be useful to you. They feel good about life when they solve a problem and move the ball forward. They want to do that for you. If they can’t solve your problem, they will keep looking for the solution until they figure it out. Instead of listening to how you feel, or what you are thinking, they are already on the way to resolving it – whatever “it” is!
If you want to be a great listener, you will need to stop trying to “fix” people’s problems, and listen to how they are feeling, how they are thinking about the circumstances they find themselves. Be curious about their story and ask clarifying questions about what is going on. People want to be understood when they talk, not fixed. There is a time to offer solutions and ideas but hold back if you are tempted to fix them. Don’t assume people are looking for you to address their problems. Become more aware of your own need to feel useful to them and therefore meet your own needs. People who are performance oriented (RED), tend to struggle with this issue when listening.
The Corrector. This is the person who listens to all the details of what is being said and is evaluating the “rightness” and “accuracy” of what is being said. They can’t help but make mental notes of the overstatements, or problems with their facts and might even correct them on the spot or question them about how that could be true. The corrector feels good about life when facts are correct and accurate. They can’t stand it when there are misstatements or exaggerations. They get fixated on these details and fail to hear the feelings and thoughts of the person sharing. The focus is in the wrong place.
If you want to be a better listener, you will need to stop fixating on evaluating the accuracy and details of what is being said. Resist the urge to correct statements or disregard statements that seem inaccurate or don’t have a factual basis. Rather you will want to pay attention to what the person is trying to convey about their feelings and emotions. Listen beneath the facts to how they are processing their experience. Often the people who are process oriented (GREEN) struggle with this issue when listening.
The Care Giver. This person is listening to discover how they can help the person. Just as the “fixer” is trying to come up with a solution, so the care giver is trying to lighten the burden of the person speaking. Their desire is genuine. They want to be helpful. In the process of trying to help others lighten their load, they may fail to give feedback of a person’s experience – thoughts and feelings. They may miss the story of what is being conveyed.
If you want to be a better listener, the care giver needs to put their desire to help to the side so they can focus attention on what is being communicated. Resist the need to feel unhelpful which drives the focus on offering suggested solutions. Instead, you can reflect back to the person speaking what they hear them communicating about their story. Wait for the person to ask for help rather than jumping right in. Listening is about paying attention to the person rather than solving a problem. Often the people who are driven to be a care giver are those who are people oriented (BLUE).
The Learner. This person is curious and wants to know more about what the person is saying. They often ask many questions, sometimes steering rather than letting a person share their heart. The learner has a need for information in order to integrate it into their knowledge base. Rather than focusing on listening to what a person is communicating about their feelings or thoughts they are processing information in their minds.
If the learner is to become a better listener, they will need to resist the need for more information to satisfy their curiosity. Questions can be helpful, if they are clarifying questions that help the speaker communicate their own feelings and thoughts. Avoid excessive questions and reflect back to the person what you think you heard or understood. Those who often struggle with asking too many questions are driven by seeing things from all perspectives (HUB).
All of us would become better listeners if we would practice reflective listening. We do this by paying attention to what is being said and the give feedback to the person about what we heard. We do this by saying things like, “What I heard you say is…” or “So you were feeling ____________ as a result of what you experienced yesterday.” This enables a person to gauge whether they have communicated accurately or whether or not they have been listened too or understood. By practicing reflective listening rather than trying to fix a problem, or help someone, or correct them, or steer the conversation with questions, we will become better listeners.
My wife and I have become more aware of our own need to listen to one another more effectively. We engaged in an assessment called the MarriageMirror.com. This easy-to-use assessment was a useful tool to evaluate our listening skills and gave us some insight into how to listen better. The cost was low, and it has already begun to make a difference in our relationship. I recommend it to you if you want to improve your marriage communication.