Listen with your ears, not your mouth

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

Do you ever find yourself in the middle of a conversation with a friend only to realize they’ve stopped listening and are already planning what they’re going to say once you finish talking?

Trying to explain your problems or share your joys with someone only to feel like they don’t care can be hurtful to friendships.

In today’s society, it can be extra difficult to truly give someone your full attention when we’re trained to constantly be checking our phones or other devices. It’s nearly impossible to be a good listener when you’re on constant alert for some other, more important message coming in.

However, making the conscious effort to give someone your undivided attention when they’re talking to you can make them feel particularly appreciated and valued. Listening intentionally can improve trust and cultivate deeper relationships and minimize miscommunication and mistakes. It can be hurtful when someone asks you something you know you’ve already told them, but it’s a nice surprise when you bring up a small detail you’ve only mentioned once or twice and your friend already knows exactly what you’re were talking about because of their careful listening.

Listening well is even a top value in the business world. This leaves the other party feeling valued — you are obviously listening and interested in what they provide, finding out more about how they can assist you in your business endeavors, finding ways in which both parties can help one another and building trust.

Tips for remaining focused and attentive include making eye contact and minimizing distractions. If you’re in a situation where your friend needs to be heard, it’s easier to focus on them if you’ve left your phone in another room, and maintaining eye contact tends to make the conversation more intense and personal.

Make an effort to practice silence. As tough as it may be, sometimes we just need to be quiet in order for someone to get all of their feelings out without us projecting our own feelings and situations onto theirs. Sometimes well-intentioned people can respond to a complaint with a situation of their own that they think can relate but couldn’t be more different. If you don’t have a proper response to what someone tells you, don’t try to give advice or empathize. Just be there. Let them know that they are heard and that you care about what they’re telling you.

Remember that humans pay attention to what matters the most to them. Let’s make sure to show our friends and loved ones how much they mean to us by paying careful attention to what they have to say.