Active listening is another basic tool of effective communication. It is employed whenever the other has a problem. We want to listen carefully to what the other is trying to say. Here are some guidelines for doing this.
1) LOOK INTO OTHER’S EYES – This is especially important, as the eyes are the real channels of deeper communication. If the other is talking to us and we are looking at TV, the computer, newspaper, or out the window, at the ceiling, down toward the floor, he or she does not feel recognized, important or connected with us.
2) GIVE EVIDENCE OF INTEREST– We can nod occasionally, make facial movements that indicate that we are listening and understanding.
3) VERIFY IF YOU UNDERSTAND OR NOT– We can ask questions that enable us to clarify if we understand what the other is saying. This is also important for the other to realize that we are listening and interested.
4) NO ADVICE OR CRITICISM – We avoid giving advice, and in all cases, we do not criticize or judge. All the truths that the other needs are within. We are there to help the other come into contact with his or her own inner truth and wisdom. This is the greatest gift we can offer someone.
5) IMAGINE YOU ARE WHAT THE OTHER FEELS – NEEDS – Empathy is an important ability in such situations as it allows the other to feel understood and cared for, but also allows us to experience his or her inner reality and thus be guided to ask more astute and effective questions or make gestures that will more effectively help the other.
Here, however, it is important not to get lost with the other. If the other is drowning in a sea of emotions, we need two abilities. One is to get into the sea with him or her so we can touch them and bring them out. The other is to simultaneously be aware that:
a. This is a soul in an evolutionary process that is experiencing exactly what he or she needs to in order to develop on an inner level at this time. What he or she is going through is a “soul choice.”
b. That this is an immortal divine being who has temporarily lost contact with its inner wisdom and guidance, and that the greatest gift we can offer is to help that being reconnect with the truth and power within.
6) BE GENUINE – NOT PHONY– It will not do to fake interest or feelings. The other will see through this. We need to be interested, but also to be ourselves.
7) ASK – QUESTIONS – There are two types of questions.
a. Questions we ask in order to clarify that we understand what we are hearing and also to verify to the other that we are interested and understand.
b. Questions we ask in order to enable the other to realize more clearly his or her feelings, needs, beliefs, perhaps past experiences that may be contributing to the problem, and, of course, solutions.
This is a technique used by psychologists and psychotherapists to facilitate an individual’s self-knowledge and transformation. It is also a technique used thousands of years ago by the philosopher Socrates to guide people to the truth within.
USE OF ACTIVE LISTENING
There are two situations where we use “Active Listening.”
1. We need to close any «I-message» by the opening toward the other and giving him or her the opportunity to express his or her feelings, thoughts and needs concerning the matter we have presented. We now want to help the other to express his or her inner world so we can understand him or her more deeply and thus improve our relationship. This is an essential part of every «I-message» and also an essential part of communication.
2. We also employ active listening when the other person has a problem, feels unhappy or is dissatisfied with something. Here are two situations:
a. The first is when the other’s problem is not related to our behavior. In this case, rather than give advice, we can help the other much more efficiently by listening and asking questions that help him or her gain clarity and make their own decisions about possible solutions.
b. The second is when we are “their problem.” In such a case, we often get caught up in an emotional merry-go-round and lose sight of the fact that they have the problem, not us. Our problem is that we do not like to be accused, criticized or made to feel guilty for what we may be doing that the other person is using to create unhappiness in him or herself. We often get lost in our hurt and defensiveness and begin the endless game of defending and counter-accusing, which leads to a complete break down in communication.
If we can remember at that moment that the other person has the problem and not identify with our personality that is being criticized or accused (imagine he or she is talking about someone else), we can respond with active listening, rather than excuses, self-defense and counter-accusations.
Through active listening, we can get a much clearer idea of what is really bothering the other person.
1. We may find he or she is right. We may find we were innocently unaware of how important something was to him or her.
2. By mutually exploring the problem in depth, the other person might realize it is his or her attachments and weaknesses that are causing the pain, not our behavior.
3. We may come to the realization that we have been so preoccupied with our own insecurities and needs that we have been truly inconsiderate of the other’s needs and may want to thank him or her for pointing this out, before making the appropriate change in our behavior.
In other words, through actively listening at the moment when the other person has the problem, there will be communication, not the usual «melodramatic court case.»
When we find ourselves with a person who is criticizing or accusing us, let us remember it is his or her problem. He or she is unhappy and disturbed about something that may or may not be our fault. Rather than feel hurt and defensive, let us listen as though he or she is talking about someone else and ask as many questions as we can to help both of us understand the real problem more clearly. Then let us discuss what might be some of the possible solutions, i.e., changes in our behavior, in the other’s programming or both.
From the book “Relationships of Conscious Love”
by Robert Elias Najemy
About The Author