I Hear You But I Am Not Listening

When it comes to communicating with others, we all usually have one thing in common: we all want to be heard. But what happens when we are talking to someone and they cut us off or we ask them a follow up question about what we were just talking about and realize that they weren’t even listening? Part of the reason why there may be a communication breakdown is that “most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply”. So what are some things that we can do so that we can better be able to effectively communicate with someone? Below you will find some tips that can help bring about more effective communication.

SHOW A GENUINE INTEREST IN WHAT THE PERSON IS SAYING- When people are communicating they want to know that the person on the receiving end of the conversation is actually interested and engaged in what they are saying. When we don’t fully feel heard that can lead to another set of problems. It is important to show that you are genuinely interested in a conversation by doing things like nodding your head, giving good eye contact or even paraphrasing what the other person just said so they know that you are listening. What’s also important during this time is your body language. Sometimes a person’s body language can tell you more about what a person may be really feeling or thinking more than actual words can.

DON’T DOMINATE THE CONVERSATION- Everyone has that one friend, family member or co-worker, who loves to dominate the conversation! There is nothing more frustrating than this. A conversation is a two way street. Sometimes people who dominate the conversation don’t even realize that they are doing it. But if you are one of those people, try asking yourself at the end of the conversation what the other person talked about during that “one way conversation” and see if you can remember? If you cannot chances are because they didn’t have the opportunity to add much to it. Also, if you find yourself one of those people who dominate conversations, maybe try allowing the other person to start the conversation or give their opinions and viewpoints first, and then chime in after. The key to this though is that, while you are “listening” to what they are saying, do not generate in your mind what you think your next response will be, and simply listen to what is being stated.

IT’S OK TO DISAGREE WHILE COMMUNICATING- Disagreeing on different things during a conversation, is almost inevitable at times, and that is ok. The most important thing to remember during a disagreement is that we must go about handling it in a non-threatening way. After all the whole point is that we want the other person to at least understand where we are coming from, especially if they don’t agree with us. For example, someone may say something that really offends you, it is ok to tell the other person politely that what they said hurt you. But we have to remember that our tone, and the way that we say it has everything to do with the outcome. If we start yelling and cursing at them because we didn’t like what they said, the situation can escalate, really quickly. It’s also always ok and sometimes necessary to walk away from the situation for a few minutes to avoid any other negative outbursts; and revisit the conversation later if you feel that it is necessary.

ASK FOR CLARIFICATION IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT IS BEING STATED- It is ok to ask the other person to clarify what they mean if we don’t have any idea what they are trying to say. Sometimes during a conversation we find ourselves “nodding our heads” and agreeing with the person and don’t have a clue about what they really meant. When someone is going on a rant about something it’s ok to stop them and ask them to better clarify what they meant. You can also ask the person to be a little bit more specific or reinstate what you thought you heard them say to insure that both people are on the same page. One of the biggest communication barriers is when we bring our own personal assumptions into the conversation, because we didn’t understand what the other person was trying to say and this could ultimately make things worse.

Covey, Stephen R, (2004). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. Simon & Schuster.