Building better relationships
It often comes as a surprise to those in a relationship that is having difficulties that one of the main reasons is a failure to actually listen to the other partner. Most of us believe that we are natural listeners and this is just not true when compared with the evidence that shows just how poor many of us are in ‘hearing’ and ‘understanding’ what others say to us.
The reason tends to be located in our drive to have our own agenda presented rather than in actually hearing and appreciating with others are saying. We tend to listen to a point where something is said that fits with what we want to say and we then jump in with our story. It often does not matter that the story does not align with what the other person has been saying as it has provided us with the necessary intro into our own spiel.
The challenge that we face is in being able to put our ego and needs on the back burner to give us time to genuinely focus on what others are saying to us. Actively listening requires a genuine desire to understand the picture from the speakers perspective even if we disagree with it. Sound relationships are build on this basis as the speaker knows that the listener is making a real effort to listen, hear what is being said, and wants to understand the message from the speaker’s perspective.
Appreciating what is involved in listening
One of the first lessons is to be sure that your hearing is OK and this can easily be checked by getting a hearing test. Many people who have had their hearing tested have been surprised to learn that they have hearing defects that in many cases are not serious but do impair their ability to effectively hear what is being said.
The second lesson is to recognise the power of your ego in driving you to push forward on your agenda irrespective of the needs of those you are interacting with. The more you demand that people listen to your story the less willing others will be to stick around to listen. Most of us want to believe that when we are speaking that those who are listening actually want to hear what we are saying because it means something to them to understand our message.
Another lesson is to recognise that every speaker and listener is different to some degree and this will naturally have an impact on the interaction. Knowing what the difference are can help us to appreciate that when someone appears to annoy us when they speak to us that this could indicate that the person has a different communicating approach to us. It is also true that when we feel very good about a speaker it is because the agenda and style of communicating fits with our style and agenda. Like is attracted by like and the reverse is also true. This is where the results from completing a Listening Style questionnaire can provide significant benefits by providing a model that explains the different ways we tend to listen. The feedback also provided ideas on what we can do to manage our relationships by modifying our listening approaches to better align with those we are interacting with.
I will delve into some of the other key lessons in my next blog.
21 October 2010