THE HEALING POWER OF ACTIVE LISTENING
There is healing power in active listening. I learned this from watching my Mom who was the best active listener I’ve ever known. She didn’t psychologically analyze, offer Dr. Phil advice and only sparingly quoted scripture references.
She mostly, simply listened. Non-judgmentally. But in a focused manner that was all in on what you were saying.
From Mom I learned that active listening…
- Makes people feel valued
- Provides a release valve for bottled up emotions
- Is a pathway for working through problems simply by talking it through with someone who listens.
Mom had no college education. No formal training, certifications or listening accolades. But one by one, she provided healing through a listening ear. Something anyone can do. Here’s how.
ACTIVE LISTENING BEGINS BY GIVING UNDIVIDED ATTENTION
Sounds obvious, but do you?
Or are you really just waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can start?
And while they’re talking, you’re formulating thoughts on what you plan to say. Considering solutions to their problem. Drawing from the depths of profound wisdom. Or perhaps just mentally pausing to casually observe what’s going on around you.
I know. It’s harder than you think. Active listening takes discipline because your mind processes information much quicker than someone speaks. So it’s way ahead of the conversation. Waiting for their mouth to catch up. Plenty of time for it to wander off.
Consider lunch. Calculate stock trades. Cogitate the deeper meanings of life.
So you have to be intentional. Pause your thoughts. Bridle your brain. Focus, grasshopper. Or you’ll wander away from active listening to mind meandering along various thought trails of inattentiveness.
When actively listening, make eye contact with the other person. Lean in. Perhaps even jot notes on a pad of paper. You’ll hear, understand and comprehend more effectively.
ACTIVE LISTENING MAKES HEARING AND UNDERSTANDING THE PRIORITY
When listening to someone share a problem, a first inclination is to solve the problem. Provide wise counsel and guidance. Even when the other person may only want to be heard and feel empathetic understanding.
It’s an immediate, active listening disconnect. You wanting to solve. Them wanting to be heard. The conversation is unsatisfying for both of you.
Avoid this by asking clarifying questions and summarizing what the other person says. This lets them talk through the problem. See it from different angles. Maybe even consider a different perspective.
And it keeps you on track. To say, “Yes, I am actively listening and understanding you.”
Keep in mind that people may struggle to articulate their thoughts. Especially in the midst of emotional drama. They may use words that don’t accurately describe what they really mean. Or different from how you define them.
When you summarize what they just said in your own words and they agree with you, it improves the level of mutual understanding.
ACTIVE LISTENING IS EMPATHETIC AND SHARES STORIES
We all want to feel understood and like others share our pain. That’s what active listening communicates to another person.
And why it’s so powerful…so healing. It assures people what they’re going through is a shared human experience. That you are there for support.
So it’s helpful to share similar life experiences with some level of vulnerability. Confess your own mistakes or doubts. How you’ve navigated them. Come out on the other side. And lessons learned.
Your primary mission is to actively listen. So sharing specific details is unnecessary. But be authentic and express your humanity.
In other words, here’s my experience…my takeaway…my adjustment. Assure the other person you are a work in progress. A member of the human family and fellow life traveler. But maybe there’s something from your journey that can help them on theirs.
ACTIVE LISTENING IS ENHANCED BY SPIRITUAL ENGAGEMENT
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I can invite God’s presence into an active listening encounter through prayer. And He often brings spiritual discernment, relevant scripture and stories to mind in a way that amazes me. Even better, He offers hope.
Active listening lets me participate in healing the soul. But prayer engages the God who heals the eternal, human spirit. For He is the ultimate, caring listener. And the final ANSWER to every problem.
Active listening counterbalances a talk heavy culture. Perhaps if more people pursued it, we’d see more healing and understanding around the world.
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