“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand;
they listen with the intent to reply.”
- Stephen Covey
One of the best ways to improve a relationship is to improve your listening skills. When someone feels heard, they feel a connection with the other person. Many of us, however, never received any lessons on how to listen. Most of the time, when we’re listening to someone, we assume they don’t have the answers and it’s our job to provide advice or share information. However when you do this, you are solving problems from your own frame of reference. In other words, you’re thinking about the problem from your own past experiences, what’s important to you, and what has helped you in the past rather than thinking about the situation from the other person’s perspective. Although your intentions are good, the other person often feels “you don’t get it” or will respond with “yah but” statements because he/she is coming from a different frame of reference. Stephen Covey in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” explains the typical listening responses:
Instead of assuming the other person is looking to you for answers, assume the other person has the answers already but they’re just not aware of them yet. In other words, be an investigator, be curious about the other person’s perspective and what has worked or not worked for that person in the past. The idea is to help the other person analyze his/her own situation in a new way rather than solving the problem for him/her. Test out some of these alternative ways to listen:
So, next time you’re in conversation with someone who you want to connect with, try experimenting with these new listening approaches. Even if you don’t solve anything, the other person will feel heard, and you’ll both feel more connected.