Sunday, August 31, 2008


My best friend is a very engaging person. She has a huge heart and expresses herself very well. She is a wonderful speaker and I love to hear what she has to say. But what I love most about my loquacious friend is she is the best listener. I know a lot of people and I trust a few of them with my thoughts, feelings and general craziness, but many people don't offer the kind of listening my best friend gives.

She listens without judgment.

As a personal life coach, I learned to listen without judgment, without putting my own agenda or ego into what another person is saying. It is a very difficult thing to do, to let someone speak, to let them talk about things they are doing that you would never do, and just let them say it. There are of course limits: if someone is truly hurting themselves, then speaking out of concern is necessary. But it's a gift to find someone who will listen without prejudice; someone who will let you live your life without putting their own agenda on you or telling you what you need to do (unless you ask, of course!).

Another aspect of being a good listener is how you respond as someone is speaking. Are you busy waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can say something? You're not listening and you are making the conversation about you rather than you and the other person. Are you looking around or doing other things while someone is talking? You're not listening. Yes, there are times when it's okay to focus on other things, but if someone is confiding in you, then eye contact and full attention can distinguish a bad listener from a good one. When you turn your attention to other things while someone is talking, it looks like you don't care (even if you do). If your body is facing a different direction or if you aren't making eye contact with the speaker, you might as well just walk away because your body language is saying "You're not important to me."

The gifts of being a good listener are you get to know someone better, you get to learn about another human being's journey, you get to share in someone else's experience. If you're a good listener, you probably have very deep relationships with people who trust you and who readily share themselves with you.

How do you become a better listener? Do just that: listen. Listen without thinking about what to say next. This is a risk for some people because once the other person stops talking, what if you don't have anything to say? Silence between two people can be scary. If you are going to say something afterwards, let it be in the spirit of sharing, of connecting, rather than forcing words out for no reason. Another way to become a good listener is to learn to honor that what the other person is saying is from their perspective, their life experiences. Let them have their perspective and experiences, no matter what yours are. Everyone is unique, everyone experiences the world differently. Honor their perspective, there are many fascinating ways to look at things! Challenge yourself to be more of a listener in your life and just see what happens.

Another great tip to being a good listener is to ask questions about the other person. This is a GREAT strategy for us shy folks at parties, especially when you might be around a lot of people you don't know. Ask questions; have some standards in the back of your mind to break the ice. Become interested in people in general, your sincerity in asking questions will go a long way. People LOVE to talk about themselves. Some people, like me, are shy in opening up, but will readily answer questions if someone asks.

People who ask questions are far more interesting than those who talk about themselves, I don't care how cool their stories are. At the end of the day, you'll connect with the person who asks you questions rather than the person who talks TO you.

You'll look like a hero in your own circle of friends if you hone your listening skills. You'll gain more trust in people, which can take you to wonderful places!

Take my free mini course for some invaluable self improvement advice.

1 comment:

Josie said...

Jeanette- Sorry it took me so long to get here. Looks great! You Go Girl!