My grandpa used to tell me “you have two ears and one mouth, use them proportionately.” I think this is pretty legit advice…and advice more people may want to consider putting into practice.
Listening actively is an act of respect. Giving people the opportunity to finish their thoughts indicates to them that their thoughts have value. Even if you don’t agree with the thought, listening to a person’s point of view opens the door to being able to ask questions and create a dialogue. I’ve never experienced interrupting resulting in constructive dialogue – have you?
When we take the time to really listen, the other person feels heard, and odds are they will do the same for us when we want to express our ideas. Listening builds trust and respect and builds a common ground for diversity of opinions. It’s paramount to building your team and fostering relationships over time.
Finishing your best friend’s sentences is one thing, but it won’t fly at work or in a professional or political context. Instead of talking over top of someone to get your point across, find a way to respectfully interrupt if needed–there is usually a natural flow in the conversation where you can interject your thoughts or ask a question for clarification
To really understand where a client is, I need to listen more than talk. Listening actively builds intimacy in the conversation and you start to learn how a person talks–the cadence, tone, language, phrases and nuances they use–giving you a more comprehensive picture of who they are. Once I’ve listened, I can ask questions to learn more or to add clarity.
If you struggle to do this, then ask yourself why you’re so impatient. Is it because you’re worried about losing your thought?, or because you disagree?, or do you think your thought is more important? Sometimes people think if they don’t jump in, the other person won’t feel like they are engaged. The thing to practice in these situations is to practice not interrupting.
Ask a question, and then wait until the person is completely done answering. Once they’re done, say “tell me more” to both practice listening and get more details. Be aware of your body language. If you are practicing open and engaged dialogue, your body language should match that intention.
Part of why some of my clients struggle with listening is because they are so busy with multiple tasks in their mind, it is hard for them to be present in the moment, often causing frustration all around. Practice being present and listening with your kids, your colleagues, and your family and notice how the quality of your relationships and interactions change. I’m willing to bet listening and learning will bring more rewarding experiences into your life.