Get Your Foot Out of Your Ear and Listen Better:
four ways to enhance your listening skills
If your eyes are on this page, you probably understand that your listening skills could be a bit better…as a matter of fact, most everyone I know could improve in this area. After all, there is a reason we have one mouth and two ears…we should be using them twice as much. Yet most of us can’t wait until the speaker stops talking so that we can get our point across and give our two cents. We literally stop listening and are actively forming our retort, which turns off our ability to take in the others’ complete point of view. When this happens, the speaker often times feels dismissed and that you believe your perspective is much more important. A man’s capacity to listen has been rated the #1 attribute women value most (yes, more than money or status). Women love to talk and when you’re meeting her it’s essential that you talk less about yourself and ask more about her.
Allow me to give you my top suggestions, straight from the therapist’s chair, about how to listen most effectively.
1. Stop What You’re Doing
As you’ll learn more in the Primitive Brain track, women’s brain structure allows for us to be able to access several parts of the brain simultaneously and therefore make us fabulous multi-taskers. Men on the other hand, reside in one hemisphere of the brain at a time and make you much less skilled in this area and we know it. Put away your cell phone, stop looking at your watch and be in the moment. Why do you think that women pay hundreds of dollars an hour for me to listen to them? Because they aren’t getting it anywhere else and they want undivided focus and presence. By doing this, the benefit for you is that we will feel heard the first time and are less likely to repeat ourselves. You should also know that women release very powerful brain chemicals when in the midst of conversation. You want that feel-good chemistry to flow in your presence.
2. Be Here and Now
Even if you’re not actively doing something else, if you’re not giving her the sense that you’re present with your body language and your fullest attention, you’re not taking her in completely. We often speak with our hands and our bodies to get our point across. Only roughly 7% of what humans communicate is with our voices, another 38% is our body language and the remainder is our presence in the room. You communicate this through consistent eye contact, calm body posture and asking questions that demonstrate that you’re listening.
This is probably the most important part. To validate her experience is to let it be known that you hear what she is saying and that you are compassionate to her feelings. Don’t confuse this with agreeing with her, we’re simply talking about a sense of empathy for her experience as a human being. This also doesn’t mean that you have to totally understand her perspective, but it does mean that you’re doing your best to normalize how she’s feeling right now. This sounds something like, “I really get that you’re upset,” or “I’m sorry that you’re sad right now,” or “I can hear how frustrated you are.” You want to include a feeling word that summarizes what she’s experiencing and when you can’t pinpoint it, use the word “upset.” Rather than judging her, this will support her in feeling understood and that her feelings are valid.
4. Reflecting, Mirroring and Asking
These are 3 of the most important tasks for you to practice. She will appreciate your sensitivity and most of the time this won’t require you to do anything more than use those two apparatus on the sides of your head. Reflect back to her a synopsis of what you hear her saying. Something like, “It sounds like that was really (insert feeling word such as ‘challenging,’ ‘hard,’ ‘upsetting,’ etc. that pertains to her statement).” Ask her follow up questions that keep her talking and indicate that you’re listening, such as, “So what was that like for you?” or “So what did you gain from that situation?” or “Have there been other times you’ve experienced that?” Nodding your head and sustaining eye contact will indicate you’re tracking her.