You can learn to listen

Discover the power of empathy
PostedJuly 16, 2014, in  Step 2: simple self assessment
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You can see it at home, at work, and on the news when government leaders meet for an international summit. When solving problems invariably is said: ‘We must learn to listen to each other’. It is no coincidence that this is communicated explicitly: Listening is the way to mutual understanding, and that is the start of a solution. But really listen to each other is more difficult than it seems. Hearing what is said is different from listening to understand. And yet this is precisely the challenge ...


It is not about what you say

Only for a very small part communication between humans is about the meaning of the words spoken. Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California suggests that only 7% of the meaning is communicated through words. 38% is paralinguistic, or the way in which the words are spoken. A whopping 55% of the meaning is communicated through facial expressions. Speaking and communicating are very different concepts.

Talking stick

But in fact, it is an age-old insight. Indians were already aware of this and this is why they developed a strategy called the ‘talking stick’. Whoever had the stick, was allowed to speak. The other(s) only listened. No discussions, just a question to clarify something was allowed. The one with the talking stick spoke until he / she felt understood. Only then will stick passed and the roles were reversed. An old strategy, but still alive today. For instance famous management guru Stephen Covey promoted this approach. He emphasized its great value: who really listens to someone’s point of view, makes the other person feel understood. The talking stick is a useful tool, but that alone is not enough. Who really wants to learn to listen must practice ánd must learn to be silent.


Letting your thoughts go

Silence his not only about ‘shutting up’, but also about creating silence in your mind. On average every person has between 60,000 and 80,000 thoughts per day. All these thoughts ask for attention. The trick is to let go of the conversation you have with yourself, to actually be able to pay attention to your conversational partner. Mindfulness can be of great value, but online there are several other exercises to be found too.

New skill

Someone who manages to silence his / her mind directly benefits from a 'new' skill: it is much easier to hear what is said. And because we are not talking to ourselves, we are less likely to ‘judge’ what we hear. We enable ourselves to see through the eyes of the other. This way we become more empathetic and this helps to make someone feel understood.  

Practice makes perfect

It may sound simple, but as said before, really listening is often harder than it seems. Most people are used to judge incoming information and place it in a context, which makes ‘seeing’ less accurate. Fortunately, the mind can be trained. Practice makes perfect after all. It is worth it, because who listens with empathy is a good conversational partner and is valued. Who would not want that?Beschrijving

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PostedJuly 16, 2014, in Step 2: simple self assessment
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