The definition of a verb is a word that is an “act, occurrence, or mode of being” according to Webster’s Dictionary. Listening is a verb and therefore an action which requires skill.
It is easy to wander off into our own thoughts when bored or in conflict, but also disrespectful and rude. When someone is making an effort to communicate, we owe them our attention just as we expect others to listen to us when we speak.
There are several things we need to do when actively listening.
- Focus and stay focused on the other person.
- Stop all non-relevant activities to avoid distractions from the message being communicated.
- Control your emotions, opinions and do not formulate arguments as they are speaking.
- Watch their body language to gather more understanding.
- Repeat in your head the words spoken if your focus is waning.
- Non-verbally acknowledge that you are listening with smiles, nods or leaning slightly toward the speaker.
- Ask pertinent questions to clarify, but do not interrupt with your opinion.
- When the speaker has finished, summarize what has been said to ensure that what you heard is truly the message they were trying to convey.
- Now it is your turn to speak with respect, honesty, tact and a soft voice.
I have to admit up front that my husband does not like the spoon method, but I attribute it to the fact that he is in the field of psychology and sits with control of the room and the session timer. The spoon takes away his authority to be in control at all times. When in conflict each person should have uninterrupted time to speak their position and often a visual method can be used to assist. The first speaker holds a spoon in front of them and begins speaking. The second person must listen attentively and without interrupting until the spoon is passed to them which starts their speaking time. No matter what the other person is saying, the other person can not interrupt.
This will help the conversation and conflict resolution in several ways. There will not be any yelling into a frenzied heat of emotion because only one person is speaking and a response can not be given without relinquishing the right to speak by handing over the spoon. Also, it requires more attentive listening because you do not know when the spoon is going to be given back to you. The lack of interruptions during a conversation filled with conflict helps to increase the feeling of respectful speaking and acknowledges the importance of both opinions.
I hesitate to even mention this, but screaming, cussing or ignoring is not a part of respectful conversation. Let’s be frank…If you can’t speak nicely to one another, maybe the real question is why exactly are you staying together?
This is a perfect illustration of not only misunderstanding what was said, but also the need to speak clearly.
How do you ensure that you are actively listening instead of making the grocery list in your head?
Now I’m handing the spoon to you.
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