This post began as a list of my thoughts on listening, which later became this non-exhaustive compilation of dos and don’ts. Although I cut it from the final draft, I thought I would share it with you anyway.
Listening is …
- Keeping quiet, most of the time. Minimizing unnecessary ‘yeses,’ ‘rights’ and ‘uh-huhs’.
- Paying close attention to words, tone and body language.
- Striving to relate to what the other person is feeling. Putting yourself in her shoes.
- Asking relevant questions to understand at a deeper level, even if a question makes you feel dumb.
- Clarifying when you don’t understand.
- Digging deeper with compassionate questions.
- Interacting to advance the conversation.
- Being comfortable with silence. The other person may not be done. A second more of silence may give you a better next question.
- Offering a story only to empathize with the other person’s pain or joy.
- Being available later. Being helpful, if possible and if welcomed.
- Talking about yourself last, or not at all. Waiting to be asked.
Listening is not …
- Interrupting. Ever.
- Following up every point with a story of your own.
- Pretending you care, if you don’t.
- Hurrying someone through her thoughts.
- Changing the subject if the subject matter makes you uncomfortable.
- Solving problems.
- Sitting in complete silence. Most people want some engagement.
- Talking louder when the other person begins to speak just to make sure your point is made first.
- Asking judgmental questions or drawing presumptuous conclusions.
- Telling stories that make you the hero or center of the conversation.
- Working your way through an agenda or list of questions.