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Effective Listening: The Ego-Free, Selfless Art of Listening

“Listening is an art that requires attention over talent, spirit over ego, others over self.” - Dean Jackson. I love this quote because it perfectly explains what it is to listen to somebody. Active, selfless listening is one of the most important aspects of any effective communication. As the quote says, it must be ego-free and centered on the person talking instead of ourselves. To listen to someone, we must listen to understand instead of listening to respond or to prove wrong.  When we say we are listening, we are formulating ideas and thinking how to respond to or counter what the other person is saying. If we analyze ourselves, are we really listening? 

If we take the time to analyze our conversations, we will realize that most of our interactions are influenced by our egos. Our ego gets in the middle, and instead of listening with empathy and compassion, we start changing the focus toward ourselves. This shift generates problems because it does not allow us to understand or support the other person fully. It hinders the conversation and makes the other person feel unheard, disrespected, and unimportant to you. 

One obstacle to effective listening is the inability to put away cell phones and focus. It is disheartening for me to see people on their phones while I am talking to them. What happened to eye-to-eye contact, to watching our gestures while we talked? I remember when we learned a lot about the other person's body language because we got immersed in conversations. Nowadays, it is usual to see young people supposedly engaging in conversation yet unable to take their eyes off their phones. Even worse, instead of speaking to each other, they resort to texting, despite being close to each other and able to have a meaningful face-to-face conversation.

As a communicator, I understand the importance of effective listening in having a meaningful conversation. Here are different steps that will help you engage in more effective conversations:

  • Put all your attention on the Speaker- Give the speaker your undivided attention. Avoid distractions like your phone or other tasks. Face the other person and maintain eye contact.

  • Show Interest in what the other person is saying- Use body language like nodding, maintaining eye contact, and leaning slightly forward to demonstrate your interest.

  • Avoid Interrupting at all times- Let the speaker finish their thoughts before you respond.

  • Paraphrase to clarify things- Paraphrase what the speaker is saying to show understanding. For example, "So what you're saying is..."

  • Encourage and reassure the other person with small verbal comments- Use words like "yes," "I see," or "go on" to encourage the speaker to continue.

  • Ask important questions to clarify your doubts- Clarify anything unclear. Use open-ended questions to encourage the speaker to elaborate.

  • Avoid judgment at all times- Keep feedback neutral and avoid making immediate judgments or criticisms.

  • Pay attention to the other person's non-verbal cues- Pay attention to the other person's body language.

  • Be Patient- Sometimes, people need time to formulate their thoughts before expressing them fully.

  • Be empathetic- Put yourself in the other person's shoes. Try to feel what the other person is feeling.

  • Be Honest and Respectful- Give thoughtful and respectful responses; even if you disagree.

These steps will allow you to improve your listening skills and build stronger, more meaningful connections with others. Remember, to create a habit out of something, you must have consistency and continuous practice. Both are key to successfully modifying our listening behaviors. This week, I invite you to be more aware of your listening skills, disconnect from your phone, and engage in face-to-face, meaningful conversations.


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