Think about how powerful it is to be heard.
In fact, reflect on an occasion when you had something to say, something important or vulnerable to share, and you knew you had the full attention of the other person.
That level of attention, when you know the other person is really listening to you, makes you feel valued. It makes you feel safe, understood, and important. Being heard validates you.
Now think about a time when you had something to say, but you didn't get that level of attention. The other person was distracted, looking at their phone, clearly thinking about something else, or mentally lining up their response without acknowledging your words.
You felt ignored, diminished, and inconsequential. Their inability or unwillingness to really hear you felt like a slap in the face.
Unfortunately, the art of being a good listener is becoming more and more of a lost art. Face to face and even phone conversations are no longer the primary way we communicate. The gatekeepers of our interactions are the computer and cell phone where we email or text in terse, abbreviated, and frequently misunderstood communiques.
When we do have in-person conversations, these same devices turn us into one of Pavlov's dogs, immediately turning our attention the minute we hear a ding. It's nearly impossible to be a good listener when you're on constant alert for some other more important message coming in.
We all know it's important to be a good listener because we know how good it feels when we're heard. Most of us want to be active listeners and to have the people we care about feel heard. But the ability to listen well affords other benefits beyond supporting others and gaining their appreciation.
Good listeners can . . . (more…)