It seems that more than ever, people want to be heard.
But when it comes to listening to others, we often fall short.
Good listeners are able to hear what people says, understand the words and remember those words.
Great listeners take their skills even further. Great listeners are able to hear people’s words, but also listen to their actions.
And that’s a great skill to have. Because people are imperfect. We often say something while doing something else. Even if we have good intentions. Even if we think we’re doing something one way while doing it another.
If you’re looking to be a great listener, it’s critical to be able to listen to people’s actions. Here are a few tips to help.
1. Hear Words, See Actions
It’s important to listen to what people are telling you. Much of the time they mean what they say. Or at the very least they want someone to hear them. It’s a form of validation and it’s important. It’s a form of human connection. It doesn’t mean you have to have a response or provide an answer. It just means listening.
It’s also important to watch what people do. Because there are plenty of times when we say one thing and do another. A simple one might be someone that says they are on a diet and later that day you see them eating a hamburger and drinking a soda.
The first key to being a great listener is taking in as much information as possible and learning to see what’s really happening.
2. Ask Non-Judgmental Questions
As you look to gather as much information as possible it’s important to ask questions. The first key is to simply try and ask more questions. Most people try to add to conversations by listening to a story and then adding their own story. Instead of doing that, try to ask questions about what the other person is telling you.
You’re also asking questions as a way to dig into the actions a person is taking. If you sense that they’re telling you one thing while possibly doing another, it’s important to try and get all the facts. For example, if someone is telling you that they’re dieting you could ask what they had for breakfast. You might get a response like, “Well, this morning I had waffles, but that was only because I was in a hurry..”
Try to be non-judgmental with your questions. The more someone feels that they’re being judged the more likely they are to hide the truth and hide their actions.
If someone tells you, for example, that they had waffles while on their diet you could tell them that you totally understand. Don’t make them feel like a failure. It’s not about passing judgment. It’s about gathering as much information as possible.
As you gather information it’s important to take time to consider it all. In our busy lives today we often don’t take the time to think through information. It’s too easy to look at Facebook or google something on our phones.
If you’re going to be observational of the world around you it’s important to take the time to sit and think. To think about what’s going on around you. To think about the people in your lives and the actions they’ve been taking.
And as you do this it’s also important to believe that people are well intentioned. We all make mistakes. We all justify things that we do even when we know we’re making mistakes.
The key is not to judge others or believe they’re doing wrong things on purpose. It’s about trying to understand what people are doing and trying to understand how that affects you and how you can respond.
An obvious point to this topic is to observe those around you. Think of a comedian that tells jokes about real life situations. Things that are obvious when the joke is told, but that seems funny because you haven’t heard it before. This is the essence of listening to the actions of others. It helps you understand the world around you and how you can respond based not just on what others are saying, but what they’re actually doing.