Mastering the Art of Listening

A couple weeks ago I was having a conversation with a friend when he made a somewhat off-kilter religious remark. Given the nature of it, I assumed he was joking – until I looked up at his face and realized he wasn’t. Here was someone I’d hung out with on countless occasions– getting coffee, hanging out at the beach, going biking – and I had thought we were quite similar in our beliefs and world views. Yet the more we unpacked that conversation, the more I realized how wrong I’d been in that assumption. 

Initial shock aside, though, he and I were able to debate the issue – and although we didn’t come to a common conclusion, we were both able to widen our personal perspectives and see another side, which is what communication and true listening are all about.

Haven’t we all experienced this in some form or other? We make assumptions about others all the time, failing to realize that these assumptions are often false since we make them based on our own personal beliefs and experiences. Yet in truth, no matter how similar we think our friends and acquaintances are to us, we all have differences and can all benefit from hearing the other’s perspective– but this requires true listening.

Listening is not the same as hearing, however, and involves much more focus and intention. It’s not just smiling and nodding when we disagree, but making a conscious effort to understand the other person and what is being said (both through verbal and nonverbal cues).

So, what does true listening entail? Head over to The Fullest for four techniques to keep in mind.

Image via Bethany M. Poteet

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