‘Listening is not the act of hearing the word that is spoken, it is the art of understanding the meaning behind those words and making the person feel heard, by creating a safe space for them to share whatever it is they want to share with you.’
These words by Simon Sinek invite you to open up your awareness to understand how you are showing up for your loved ones and the people in your life.
People move away when they sense you are not mentally and emotionally available to them in a conversation. You may be physically present for your loved ones. Providing for them or doing your duty. But if you are not invested in them emotionally and mentally, over a period of time they will distance themselves from you. When people feel unheard, it makes them feel uncared for too.
Here are 10 signs that indicate you are just hearing and not listening to a person
- Checking time – Are you looking at your watch when they are speaking? This tells them you are not available to them long enough, or that you are trying to rush them with what they have to say.
- Restless body language – There are many signs like fidgeting with your phone, shaking your leg, looking around the room as if you are waiting for someone to walk in and interrupt you and the like.
- No eye contact – When the speaker is talking to you, you are looking at other people and things around you and not making any eye contact. It does not mean you stare at them either. But looking at them with compassion allows them to feel safe while sharing.
- Answering a call – needless to say more. You’ve ruined it! Some people answer a call midway through an important conversation and as they cut that call, they start talking about where you left off – trying to impress upon you their ability to multitask and be in many conversations at one time. It’s a good way to impress someone, but not one that will make someone feel heard or cared for. Checking your phone and texting someone, or checking your notifications at these times, tells them you are distracted by these beeps.
- Butting in – You are interrupting the speaker too many times with what you think about the situation, even before they have completed their sharing. Listening is about letting the other person speak, while you simply take it all in – absorbing what is being said and becoming aware of what it means.
- External interruptions – Someone suddenly walks in and interrupts the conversation and you start talking to them instead of asking them to leave or wait. It makes the speaker feel uncomfortable and awkward instantly.
- Parallel talk – Someone walks into the room and you parallelly start talking to them. Almost inviting them into the conversation without the speaker’s consent.
- Cutting their call – If you are on a call with someone who is sharing, and you see another call coming in, you prioritise that call over the current call, saying you’ll call back(but may forget). It is like jumping the queue and no one appreciates it. Stick with the current call and return the other call later.
- Side talk – If you are on a call with someone who is sharing, you start speaking to someone else in your room too, like giving them an instruction or saying a yes or no. Or sometimes even parallelly chatting with the person in your room. Side conversations when you are on a phone can be a tell-all sign you are not listening. You can hear partially or fully. But you listen only fully or you don’t listen at all.
- Judgemental – Can you be in a space of neutrality and not jump to conclusions about who they are and how right or wrong they are about the situation? Can you create a safe space for the person to share by being non-judgmental? Listening to your own opinion while they are talking is taking you towards becoming judgemental.
Take a moment and reflect on what kind of a listener you are. What is your listening score on these 10 points?
If you are less than 5 – Make changes quickly by becoming more aware. You are still not so off track.
If you are between 5 and 7 – Your awareness is dulling because your mind is processing many things simultaneously. Quieten the mind and slow down. Allow your own opinion to take a back seat, so you can listen fully.
If you are between 8 and 10 – Chances are you are already losing some people mentally and emotionally in your life. Take stock, build awareness and make conscious efforts to be fully present to the person in front of you.
When you stop listening they stop sharing. When they stop sharing, they distance themselves from you mentally and emotionally. When people feel unheard, they move away. Period.
The next time someone begins to share something important to them with you
- Let them know you have a certain amount of time just for them to share
- Turn off any distractions that may interrupt your time with them
- Promise yourself to be fully present in the conversation
- Listen fully – do not speak, except when you want to comfort them with words like ‘go on, I’m listening’, or asking questions that help them open up further
- Give them your undivided attention for the said time
- Allow compassion to flow through your eyes
- Keep your own opinions out of your thoughts, so you can be fully present to the speaker
The golden rule of building deep and long-lasting connections with people is to give them the feeling that they are heard, what they say and feel matters and that you care about how they feel.