If there is one aspect of nature which is common to all us, it is that each one of us considers himself/herself to be the center of the universe. It is always our ideas, our perceptions, our opinions and our worlds that are the most important. Given this view of the world and ourselves, how can we expect anybody to spend time listening to others.
As Stephen Covey says in “Seven habits of highly effective people”, that we have to “learn to understand, before wanting to be understood”. That is we need to listen to others actively and effectively. There is a lot of finesse required in the delicate art of listening. We need to be “all ears” whenever we are listening and pay complete attention to others when listening.
There are many ways of listening to others. Depending on the situation we need to listen differently. We have to be certainly empathic in our listening. Some of the ways of listening are
The Silent Listener: In this type of conversation we are expected only to listen and appropriately nod our heads as and when the situation demands. In this case the person doing the talking is not expecting any opinions or judgments from us. They want to pour their innermost feelings of joy or sadness. They want to share their emotions with us. In this case we should neither judge nor voice our opinions. We should encourage the other person to come out fully with their feelings. If we do this the other person will experience a sense of relief and lightness.
The Active Listener: In this situation again we are not expected to voice our opinions based on our own perceptions of what is right or wrong. The person is just expecting somebody to look at the world through their eyes. While our initial reaction may be to correct the other person’s misconception we should not be too brutal and interrupt their outpouring of their emotions. In this type of listening it is “more important to be kind than to be correct”. Though we may feel that the other person may be mistaken it sometimes helps to soften the truth by initially agreeing with the thoughts of the person. We need to aware of the verbal, facial and emotional cues and just allow the person to empty his feelings to us. We may be later try to help think through the situation.
The Participatory Listener: This is another type of listening where we are expected to help the speaker with his/her own thoughts. In these situations the person is having some serious problem or crises in life and is unable to cope with the situation. Here we sincerely need to help the person by thinking and voicing our thoughts to them. We need to help them look at the situation more objectively and in more ways enabling them to come towards a conclusion. In other words we need to help the other person think through the problem.
Hence there are different ways of listening and it is an art that needs to be constantly practiced. For one we need to have a genuine concern for the other person and try to look at the world through their eyes. In empathetic listening the speaker can definitely unburden himself and the listener comes away feeling that he has truly helped the other person.