My friend Jake said, “When someone tells me about a problem, I used to try to help them solve it. But I’ve learned that simply listening can be more helpful than the best advice I might give.”
Jake is not alone. Many of us equate listening with problem-solving, and we don’t even realize it. We believe that when someone shares a problem, the best response is to help them find a solution.
Do you know how to REALLY listen? … to listen without feeling responsible to help the person find a solution?
The REAL listening skills.
Some years ago during a YPO Forum moderators training program, one of the participants had this explanation of the power of real listening faxed from his office. I’ve kept it all these years because it reminds me that listening is not just a skill to be taught. We need to remember why we are listening.
When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving advice, you have not done what I asked.
When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problems, you have failed me, strange as that may seem.
Listen! All I ask is that you listen. Not talk or do – just hear me.
When you do something for me that I can do for myself, you contribute to my fear and inadequacy. I‘m not helpless, maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.
When you accept as a simple fact that I feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can quit trying to convince you and can get about the business of understanding what’s behind this irrational feeling.
Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what’s behind them. And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious and I don’t need advice.
So please, listen and just hear me. And, if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn; and I’ll listen to you.
The best response.
The best way to listen is with your mouth shut. If you’re talking, you’re not listening.
While you’re listening, pay attention to how what you hear affects you – not what you think about it, but how you are personally affected.
When it’s time to respond, consider your intention before you speak. Whose needs are you meeting? Are you trying to look smart? …to be appreciated? Or is your intention genuinely to support the other person and to share your sense of connection?
Connection and compassion are the greatest responses, the greatest gift you can give. And often, that requires no words at all.