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If You Want to Help, Learn the Art of Listening

If You Want to Help, Learn the Art of Listening

As humans, we ultimately aim to give back to our universe and society. We can do this by helping those in need -- and simply listening is one important way to do this that is often overlooked.

Ernesto Sirolli, in his TED Talk entitled “Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!”, proposes that the first step is to listen to the people you're trying to help. But often we fail to differentiate between hearing and listening. While the former involves the passive act of allowing the ears to input sounds into the brain, the latter involves getting actively and emotionally involved with what is being said. Good listeners are often good speakers too, as they take in information at a deeper level and hold onto it for longer. And one who listens well can win the hearts of people with ease.

If You Want to Help, Learn the Art of Listening

If You Want to Help, Learn the Art of Listening

Eyes see only light, ears hear only sound, but a listening heart perceives meaning.

- David Steindl-Rast

Let us find the most important qualities and actions to carry out in order to develop your skills as a good listener.

1. Use your eyes

Along with your ears, make sure you keep an eye on the person speaking to get non-verbal cues from body movements and gestures. Hearing involves only the use of the ears, but when you're aiming to truly listen, you need to incorporate the use of your eyes to get a fuller idea of what they're communicating.

2. Hold onto your tongue

We all know that curiosity killed the cat, and the only way to save and hone your listening skills is to not let curiosity take a toll on you. Listen, listen, and then keep listening, waiting for your chance to speak. And when that chance comes, make sure to utilize it to the fullest and let your feelings be known.

3. React, don’t act

Use your body language, eyes and facial expressions to reciprocate to what the speaker says, and check your impulse to want to provide verbal opinions and advice in between. This can be one of the worst mistakes a person can make when listening to others. You do not want to interrupt someone who is in the middle of a train of thought and trying to offer information. This disrupts the speaker's concentration and hampers their attempt to process and provide details. 

4. Use your power of visualization

Try to visually imagine what the person is telling you about to help you engage in the conversation whole-heartedly. If a person describes a place or person, try conjuring that place or person as an image in your mind. If a person describes a personal experience, try getting into his/her skin and reliving the experience. This makes the act of listening much more active and effective.

5. Don't jump to conclusions

When listening, focus on the speaker and not your own thoughts that are striking you at the moment. Do no try to look at things judgmentally, and do not draw premature conclusions. Wait for the person to finish, take a deep breath, and then thoughtfully formulate your feedback. In order to facilitate listening, mastering the act of empathizing is a must. This helps in not drawing conclusions too early about the speaker.

Listen and learn

So there you have it, the elementary requirements to become a good listener so that from the next time on, every conversation will leave you with information that sticks in your mind and heart forever.

Keep listening, and keep helping those around you by first learning from their life experiences.

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