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Sunday, 13 August 2017

Life Lessons with Livvy Part 7: How to be a better listener

                                               Hello there you beautiful beings of the blog-o-sphere! 

So today, I wanted to you a little bit about listening, and more importantly I wanted to share some tips on how to become a good listener. I spent the past year gaining my certificate in person-centred counselling, and along the way I learnt some useful tips on how to up your listening game. So here goes….I hope some of my tips can help!

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A good listener offers affirmation, validation, and trust. Skilled listening makes up one half of effective communication, which is the foundation of any healthy relationship. However, being a good listener is not as simple as just not interrupting people, or nodding your head in silence, it requires some level of skill. So, today I thought I would share with you a few ways you can be a more efficient listener. The first step, is to make the person you are listening to feel safe, trusted and confident enough to open up to you. One way to make that individual feel safe is to keep an open mind and to leave your judgement at the door and fully embrace the words they are saying. As you are human, obviously you cannot magically remove all judgements that come to your mind, but you can learn to disregard them and recognise that they are not needed within the exchange you are having. The second step is to act interested, curious and passionate about what the speaker is telling you. Essentially, you want to listen with your whole body. In addition to using your ears to listen to the words, you also use your eyes to look out for non-verbal’s, your brain to think about what is being said, and your heart to feel emotions. It is best to let the other person speak for the most part, however you can ask questions. Just ensure that you are not so direct in your questioning, that it results in you taking lead of the conversation. Remember- it is the other person who needs this time to feel heard and listened to! To make listening conscious for you and perceptible for your conversation partner, make sure you smile, nod your head, sit upright in your chair and make use of simple phrases such as, ‘of course’, ‘I understand’, ‘I hear you’, ‘I see’. These are affirmations for the listener and help them to recognise that you are with them.

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Up to 80% of what we communicate comes from non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, gestures and posture. Therefore, when we are busy with other tasks whilst listening, we are missing many of the signals that the speaker is trying to communicate to us. It is also important to listen not only to the gestures and the words, but also to the emotions beneath the words. Essentially, you need to listen to the things that are not being said. Look out for things such as the speaker’s tone of voice,...does it alter whilst they are recalling a certain moment? Watch out for their facial expressions...do they smile and then suddenly start frowning? Notice the way they are sitting or standing...does their position shift at any point? Do their gestures fit with the words they are using? Many people who have gone through traumatic events, will use humour when recalling negative events in their past, often smiling and sometimes even laughing. However, this doesn’t mean that they are comfortable, it just means that it is their way of coping. It is our duty as a listener, to do more than just listen to the speaker's words. We must show demonstrate curiosity and genuine interest, be authentic, empathetic, trusting, open minded, non-judgemental and make sure that you are tuning into the person that you are listening to in an authentic and genuine manner. And remember: good listening is not giving advice, sharing experiences, or making snap judgements!

Good luck with your future listening, and let me know if you have any of your own tips in the comments below! 

- Olivia Charlotte Alice

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