Improving Listening Skills

Improving listening skills can be as simple as making a commitment inside your own brain to pay attention.

However, that commitment can be quickly forgotten (as fast as 1/18th second) if the message your are trying to hear is laced with contempt or disgust, or there is a great deal of distraction in the environment.

There is a reason why important communications are done in private or in a quiet environment.

I know that when my children are clamoring for attention while my wife and I are trying to talk, I overload sensorily very quickly and it is easy to snap out on the kids because I cannot hear all those important messages and process them at the same time, it is overwhelming, so i need to be able to say to folks, one at a time please, and attend to the messages of people who I love and who love me in a more sequential manner. My daughter will have nothing to do with waiting her turn, since she is four, and I often need to give her some attention first in the family crucible, and my wife will join in when she sees what is happening with Hannah and I.

Once Hannah has been heard, communications can become more sequential.

This particular family dynamic usually happens when one parent or the other arrives home and the family all wants to greet them, so I need to be prepared for it, greet the younger, less patient kids first and then greet my wife.

So improving listening skills might include planning to keep some internal calmness in those situations where we know communications will be chaotic.

And then, of course, we will double check what happened to make sure all our messages were heard clearly.

Not sure about you, but we have had a couple family plans not followed because communications were garbled.

Discreet Improve Listening Skills

The most important listening skill is to repeat the message you are hearing in your own head.  You cannot be preparing your retort if you are doing that, and even if the message you are hearing is laced with contempt and disgust, you will be giving the gift of attention, which is priceless.

Often the yelling and loudness and nonverbal communication coming your way are an attempt to be heard, and when the sender realizes you are listening, they will begin to calm down.

That commitment to listen is something that takes practice. I think our normal reactions to nonverbal cues and loudness overtake us before the speaker says more than a word or two, and we are off on our own high arousal message, which can lead to a dangerous escalation, so discipline at the earliest stage of listening is key to the success of the process.

As the original sender calms down, or perhaps runs out of steam, I want repeat back to them what I heard them say, and at the end of my reiteration, I ask, "Did I hear you accurately?"

The sender will reply yes or no, and if the answer is no, I ask them to repeat the message to me, and I again reiterate, and ask again about accuracy.

When I finally get to a "yes, you heard me accurately", we can begin to problem solve.

The gift of attention, when given this way, truly fosters deeper intimacy. What a great way to put emotional money in the bank.

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