Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Can you hear me?

I came across this Turkish proverb today: "Speaking is silver; listening is gold."
I thought about this and realized that it is indeed true. Maybe the saying "Silence is golden" comes from this proverb.  
Communication is an integral part of human existence.  It is essential.  From the minute a baby is born, it starts to develop its communication skills.  A mother becomes finely tuned in to her baby's every little sound and she listens closely and pays careful attention to its needs.  Communication consists out of verbal and non-verbal communication.  Talking and listening is its key components, but a hug or a gentle touch can speak just as loudly.  Most people are quite adept at talking, in fact, most people love talking, but unfortunately they are not so keen to listen.  However, it is actually our skills at listening that makes communication more successful.  When we listen, we learn things about the other person that can help us to continue with the conversation.  When we listen, we have the opportunity to observe what the words used are not communicating.
However, listening does not come easily, despite the fact that we have been created with twice the tools to listen than what we have to talk. So what does it mean to really LISTEN?  I have made an acronym out of it:

L = Look the other person in the eyes.
I = Intently hear the words and observe the body language
S = Stay quiet
T = Tune out other thoughts and distractions
E = Ensure you understand correctly
N = Never interrupt

Remembering these six points will greatly enhance your listening skills.  To effectively listen it is necessary for you to take time away from what you are busy with.  Put away your tools, your book or your phone and pay attention to the person talking to you.  You have to make eye-contact with the person.  You have to focus on the speaker and focus on what is being said and HOW it is being said.  You have to clear your mind of your own ideas and perceptions.  Do not just pretend to be listening, the other person will quickly catch on and the conversation will be unsuccessful.  Being busy with other things while having a conversation is very distracting to both you and the person talking and will not instill a sense of trust with the other person.  Do not ever judge the conversation, or what is being said, this will make you unable to truly hear what is being communicated.  Be careful not to drift off, stay focused. Never listen just so that you can comment and talk about your own experience and never take it personally.  Body language can often give more away about a particular situation than the words themselves, therefore it is important to carefully observe the body language of the speaker.  Remember, listening to somebody does not mean you agree with their point of view, it just means that you are an ear and a shoulder to cry on.
We all need somebody to talk to, to share our joy and heartache with.  Somebody that will not judge us, force advice on us or reject us, but are just willing to listen.  We do not even want somebody to fix our problems for us, but just somebody that will hear us.  The world is full of people desperately crying out to be heard. Having somebody to talk to make us feel warm, loved and cared for.  It is like finding an oasis in an arid land.  It helps to lighten our burdens.  For some it can even be a lifeline. Let us try to become people who listen twice as much as what we talk.  Let us be that soft place to fall for a weary friend.