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The importance of listening

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The importance of listening

I just wanted to take sometime to talk about the true importance of listening to other people.  I know that there is a LOT of chatter in this world and people talk a lot (I am a major culprit of that), but how often do we really listen to what they are saying?  Have you ever had a conversation with someone and is may have struck you in the middle of the night or the day all of a sudden it strikes you that they may have been asking something of you and you totally didn't get it because you weren't fully engaged in the conversation, or had a thousand other things on your mind?  I know that it happens to me, not a lot at work, but when I talk to people in my outside life, if I am not completely engaged, I can miss some crucial parts of conversations.  More importantly, you can mis the signs of a friend or loved one asking or help, or letting them know that they need you.

How can I become a better listener?
It is actually more difficult than it seems, and you need to basically re-learn behavior.  Most of us are taught how to talk and how to best use words to get our points across, but not many of us are taught to actually sit and listen. But here are some tips on how to better engage in a conversation, and after some time of consciously working at it, this behavior will become second nature:
-Keep conversations, as much as possible, in areas without a lot of other noise, stimulation (turn TV's/radios off) and close doors when possible to allow for your full attention
-You will be as open as your body sits physically, so try not to cross your arms, but appear and be open
-Concentrate on the person and what they are saying
-Make eye contact, or give the person encouragement to speak by looking at them
-Don't interrupt; sometimes it can be hard to formulate the word or correct working in particularly tough conversations, so give time to allow that to happen.
-If you are not sure about a certain point, or need clarification, repeat a point back to the other person and ask open ended questions to allow for a more in depth answer.
-If you are tired or unable to fully concentrate, get a cup of tea/coffee and try to stay engaged best you can
-If someone asks to talk to you ("Hey can I to talk to you about something when you have a minute?") make time for that as soon as you can.
-Don't rush to fill a silence, sometimes people just need a moment to think about things and let ideas/statements settle.

I know that these seem like silly little tips, but it really is a skill you have to learn to focus on people when they are talking and really listen to them.  I had to learn it as an HCP and it is a skill that has helped me in real life immensely, but every now and again, I wake up int he middle of the night with a thought that I had a missed moment with someone; I wasn't fully engaged because I was thinking about a billion other things, and I may have missed a moment to help out or allow someone to tell me something that has really been bothering them.  In an ideal world, we would all be very blunt and say exactly what we are thinking....but, in the real world, that just doesn't happen!

Try to keep your mind clear, ears open, and really allow yourself to hear others; your relationships will be stronger, and you will feel more connected to those around you, plus it gives you some time to get out of your own head (which can be a nice little stress vacation!)

Yours in Good Health
B

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