The Lost Art of Listening

The Lost Art of Listening

by Erin Oden, ASW, Clinical Director

Throughout my life, I have spent many hours sitting across from people who have been amid personal struggle. What I have found is that regardless of if I am in my clinical office and talking with a client about his childhood, or sitting across from a friend at her kitchen table, the thing that helps comfort people the most is just feeling that they are being heard. We usually just need someone to listen. It is feasible this need is exacerbated in our society today, due to the amount of time we spend on electronic communication and in a rush to get from one thing to the next. Our intrinsic need for human connection has been snubbed.

Perhaps the simplest way to show someone that they have your attention is through your non-verbal communication. Researchers estimate that about 80 percent of communication takes place non-verbally. Here are some ways to communicate that you are listening to someone in a non-verbal (yet highly effective) manner:

1. Physically face the person.
Turn your hips and shoulders toward the person you are giving your attention to. This shows that they have your undivided attention and that you are trusting him/her.

2. Take a seat and get comfortable
If your friend is anxiously pacing the room, take the time to sit and model being grounded. If he is sitting, try not to stand while speaking with him. This shows that a) you are fully present for him and not in a rush to leave, and b) you are not looking down upon him in a judgmental or controlling manner

3. Eye contact.
Try not to glance around the room at the television, or catch eyes with the attractive person walking by. Looking someone in the eye shows her that you are listening to what she has to say and that she has your full and undivided attention.

4. Put your phone away.
We live in a society that is constantly expecting to be communicating via email and text. This has lead us to, almost obsessively check our phones for new information and connection. Put your phone into your pocket for 30 minutes. I guarantee you will find that you have a more insightful and meaningful conversation.

5. Mirror what you see and hear
Subtly mimicking the body language and verbal language of the person whom you are listening to naturally elicits trust. It unconsciously connects you to the speaker and helps him or her to feel seen and heard. Example, if a friend cocks his head to the left and says, “I am so done.” Try cocking your head the same direction and in a kind tone ask, “What is causing you to feel done?” or “What do you mean, you are done?”

At ARS, our staff members are empowered to take the time to really listen to our clients. Neglecting to give clients attention is a subtle path to making them feel insecure and powerless in their process. And, at the end of the day, we want our clients to feel valued and empowered!

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Erin Oden, ASW, Clinical Director

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