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4 ways to be a better listener

  • Published at 06:50 pm November 1st, 2018
There’s more to listening than just hearing BIGSTOCK

By being effective listeners, we can truly help someone in need

Not all of us are born great listeners. Hardly anyone can sit in a conversation and really be able to naturally empathize with a speaker. 

But, in order for us to survive and have peace of mind, we need to be able to share our troubles with others. Dealing with a lot of aspects of life can be draining. Be it the mundane or the stressful, the effects can be disruptive in going on with our day to day lives. De-cluttering our minds is an essential part of being able to function in a society. 

That means it goes the other way as well. We too, need to be on the receiving end of the de-cluttering, and help those around us take the load off. By being effective listeners, we can impact someone we care about in meaningful ways. We can help them heal. 

Listen to understand

A big mistake in conversation often happens in our ways of absorbing information. Most of us tend to listen so that we can reply to what the other person is saying. Just think about how often we begin to prepare a response in our heads while someone is speaking.

When someone is opening up to us, our role as listeners calls for us to first and foremost take in the information they are presenting. Responding to what is being said can either be unhelpful, or even jarring. 

Sometimes people just want to vent. Whether we agree or disagree with their emotions isn’t relevant. Listening without adding our personal input allows the speaker to unload, and gives them the platform to openly express their thoughts. 

Be in the present

It’s easy for our minds to get distracted. This is especially the case in a time when our phones are so easily within our reach. Even with a world of things to tend to, a good listener is someone who can be in the conversation without letting their minds wander. It isn’t much of a conversation if we’re not fully focused. 

When we shift our focus away from a person who wants to open up about something, we do them the disservice of not taking their issues seriously. It takes courage for a person to open up about what they are going through. It is very likely that the person they choose to share with is someone they value. 

Empathize, but don’t internalize

To be empathetic means to feel the emotions that another person is experiencing, without becoming bogged down by the weight of it. It is important that, as good listeners, we don’t let ourselves get carried away.

When someone is telling us of an incident that, for instance, is so discriminatory that it’s infuriating, by letting our emotions get the better of us, we probably would be doing more harm than good. 

In situations such as these, it’s important to take a step back, and assess what they’re telling us, without letting ourselves internalize the emotions which come with the story. The ability to not give input for the mere sake of a response could also come in handy.

Leave judgment behind

There is nothing more important when listening to someone than to be understanding. This means leaving behind our personal notions of morality -- a difficult feat to achieve. But a good listener does just that. 

It doesn’t make sense to be sitting with a person and listening to their story if all we’re thinking about is whether this person has done the right thing or taken the right course of action. We’re all intricately programmed to think and feel a certain way, and thousands of factors shape our beliefs and opinions. Once we realize that we are just as much a product of our surroundings as everyone else around us, shedding the part of us that’s prone to being judgmental becomes much easier.

There has been a lot of talk over mental health over the past month, with World Mental Health Day celebrated worldwide on October 10. Seeking help to better mental health is incredibly important, but often, therapy and medication can be a long, expensive, and arduous process. 

While we should seek professional help when we become too overwhelmed, unpacking our trouble to our peers and close ones can provide the relief we all need. To that end, we can all strive to be better listeners, and be there for those we love when they need it the most. 

Luba Khalili is Deputy Manager, Communications, BRAC.

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