Eight Secrets for Being a Powerful Listener

 

iStock_000054823362_Large Listening

Hmmm. Shop or listen? The National Day of Listening is the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, a day many join the shopping madness on “Black Friday.” It seems a very appropriate day to, as an alternative to focusing on buying more stuff, focus on being with others and listening, really listening, to them. The National Day of Listening was launched by the national oral history project StoryCorps in 2008, now heard on public radio stations nationwide. From the StoryCorps website: “We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters.”

Every day should be a day for listening.

Being a communication consultant for over 15 years, I know that listening (I have to work at this, too) is probably one of the most challenging parts of good communication. Good communication is an important element in building resilience and balance in life and creating positive and meaningful relationships of all kinds.

Not everyone is a good listener. In fact, really good listeners are, unfortunately, rare. But those who are good listeners are appreciated, respected and loved by those who know them.

The brain works by association, and it is very easy for your thoughts to make connections to either your own experiences that relate to what is being said or something that has an associative connection in some way with what is being said. But the problem with that is it takes our thoughts out of the moment with that person and brings the focus in our minds to ourselves instead of the other person. So, good listening is not a passive activity but rather a very active one–one in which intent and focus (to keep bringing ourselves back into the moment with that person) are required. A few of the things needed for good listening are: awareness, focus, compassion, generosity, patience, and mindfulness.

Here are some important tips and reminders for being a powerful listener:

  1. Stay in the moment with that person and what they are saying. If your mind wanders for a moment, bring your focus back to that person, breathe slower through the area of your heart with the intent to really hear the other person.
  2. Listen compassionately. Suspend judgement, and listen with your heart. Look for what you may have in common instead where you may not agree. The more judgmental one is, the shorter the conversation may end up being, and will leave an impression of separation instead of unity with the one who was sharing with you.
  3. Try to be aware of talking less and listening more. Avoid turning the conversation around to make it about you. If you find yourself using “I” and “me” a lot, try using them much less and make the conversation about the person you are listening to.
  4. It can help to enrich a conversation by using the answer to a question you may ask the other person as a basis for the next question. When what you are saying is connected to what you are hearing, it will assure the one who is talking with you that you’re really listening and encourage more sharing.
  5. Please try to avoid relating their experiences to yours, “I’ve experienced that, too!” While this can be an attempt to relate to the other person and show understanding (and have good intentions behind it), it can turn the conversation around to be focused on you. If you find you have done that, turn the conversation back to the other person as the focus.
  6. Use non-verbal communication that shows the other you are hearing them. Doing things like , nodding “yes,” eye contact, or leaning toward them across a table let the person know that you are listening and with them.​​​
  7. Try not to offer solutions or help, at least not right away. Wait to be asked for your opinion. If you aren’t asked, don’t offer it or ask them first if they want your perspective before giving it. Many times people just want to be heard. They don’t need someone to rescue them or solve their problem.
  8. Be encouraging and patient. Please don’t interrupt.

Give the gift of your undivided attention to others, they will appreciate your gift from the heart!

© Copyright 2015, Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal is a Heartmath® Certified Trainer and Coach, communication and leadership consultant, and Author of the Award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World.

For more information: http://lifeworkresilence.com

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Creating Boxes in Life by Saying “No”

I recently wrote an article, ”Saying “Yes” into Overwhelm,” because I and many Imageother people I’ve met have a patterned tendency to take things on. It is an understandable tendency for those who want to be of help, service or make a positive difference. The point of the article was not to not say “yes,” but to consider first if one can fit this one more thing into an already busy life or if it will tip the balance into overwhelm.

Having said all that, let’s explore the flip side of the coin. Even though I’m one of those people who has a patterned tendency to say “yes,” there are areas of my life where I might have a tendency to have a knee-jerk “no” at the ready.

Can you think of areas of life where that might be the case for you?  Maybe it’s something that you should not agree to, because it would be a healthy choice to say, “no.”  But, there may also be areas or instances, as have been in my life, where to say “no” would limit  positive life experience or opportunities.  Usually these areas have to do with a fear of some kind.

While I enjoy speaking in front of large audiences (I had to get over that fear many years ago, but that’s another story), I’m somewhat of an introvert.  During my personal time (preferring my “cave” to large social situations), that knee-jerk “no” might be in regard to a party or large social gathering.  Saying “no” may limit my opportunity just to be out in the world connecting with others in a positive way. Being in this world is about relationships of all kinds, and communication is the key to all those many types of relationships. I was limiting myself. I was keeping myself in a bit of a box during my non-working time.

Perhaps you have a fear of over-committing your time, and your knee-jerk “no” might be there for just about any request.  Again, it may limit positive opportunities and experiences and back you into a box.

The bottom line in the knee-jerk “no” response is usually fear-based, and fears limit us in our lives. When considering a response, before automatically falling into the patterned tendency to say “no,” here are a few things you can ask yourself or do that may help:

  1. Is automatically tending to say “no” a pattern for me in situations like this? Is there a fear that might be preventing me from saying, “yes?”
  2. If I say “yes,” what will it involve (time, energy, expertise)?  Asking this question of the person or group that is making the request is important to make the decision in awareness.
  3. What are the benefits of saying, “yes?”
  4. Look at the various areas of life to see if you can fit it in.
  5. Sleep on it (unless it’s an urgent situation) before giving your answer.
  6. If still uncertain, talk with a trusted partner or friend who is supportive in your personal growth.

The important thing is to know yourself (and be aware of areas where there might be a fear) and make decisions in conscious awareness.  Of course, this is a process, and with each “yes,” step-by-step, you can overcome a fear and open up doorways for positive opportunities, growth, confidence and, even, miracles.

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication consultant, coach and author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World. For more informationwww.maryclaireoneal.com

© Copyright, Mary Claire O’Neal

Photo credit: Getty Images

Saying “Yes” into Overwhelm

Balance Series, Part 190336474_8

Every day offers new opportunities for activity, along with the challenges of keeping on track with priorities. Accomplishing things step-by-step is helpful in bringing ourselves back into a state of balance.

Have you ever said “yes” too many times and gotten yourself into a place of overwhelm? I have. I realized what was behind the “yes” was my desire to serve and to help (which is a good thing), but sometimes ego can be in there, too.

Has anyone ever said to you something like, “We’re looking for someone with your gifts and talents,” or “We need someone who has your insight to guide this.”  Saying “yes” to something and knowing that it will be of service to others is a very good thing.  Saying “yes” to something, knowing that you are already over-committed, but it will give you the opportunity to shine, is another. There’s nothing wrong with “shining” in the world. It can be a good thing. But it can be a part of the motivation in making choices that will send you into overwhelm or cause other priorities or commitments to be compromised, derailing your purpose in life and creating difficulty–not 83598834_8only for yourself but others. Also, when in overwhelm there is usually not time for the things that can help you stay balanced and healthy (like exercise, sufficient rest, and social and creative time). You cannot give the energy needed for things if you get seriously depleted or become ill.

I don’t write about anything that I haven’t experienced myself, and I can tell you, the overwhelm from saying “yes” too much kept me in a place of chaos for several months. It had nothing to do with the people or the organizations I said “yes” to. They would have kindly understood if I had said “no.” It had to do with me and my choices.

Lesson learned.

So, if you have a patterned tendency to “yes” yourself into overwhelm, here are a few things that can help:

1. Stay in the moment with life choices, using discernment before giving an answer. In other words, don’t fall back on a past pattern of taking things on or automatically saying, “yes.” The answer probably doesn’t have to be given right away.

2. Ask yourself, “Is this going to prevent me from honoring other commitments?”

3. Ask, “Will I still be able to take care of myself (health and happiness), if I do this?

4. Ask, “Is being considered indispensable or wanting to shine one of the main reasons for saying “yes?”

5. Take a break. If conflicted or in doubt, take some quiet time to just ask for guidance. Deeper or higher levels of ourselves probably already know the answer.

6. Talk to significant others or those in our lives the decision will impact.

After having honestly considered all these things, and you think that saying”yes” is still the best choice, you’ll have entered into the decision and commitment consciously.  Then there is more room to truly and happily give of yourself and serve.

Mary Claire O’Neal is the author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World, and is a communication consultant, coach and speaker.

© Copyright, Mary Claire O’Neal

Photo credit: Getty Images

The Value of Trust and Three Ways to Build It

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Nurture trust with others.

Today I’ve been thinking about how important trust is. It is something that is vital to nurture in all good relationships, including professional ones. Trust is not automatically given by most people; it must be earned. Being consistent in building that trust with others goes a long way in creating strong, enduring relationships of all kinds.

What are ways to build trust?

Always following through on what you agree to or say you will do is one of the most important. And if it looks like you cannot honor an agreement, renegotiate as soon as possible with the person it concerns. Neglecting to do these things is one of the biggest reasons why trust is lost.

Another way to build trust is to consistently think the best of those in your relationships, whether they be friends, co-workers/colleagues, partners/spouses, or family members. People value relationships where they can feel that kind of security in knowing that they will be given the benefit of the doubt, and that the positive will be the first conclusion.

Apologies, sincere and soon, are also very important in keeping trust with others. We all make mistakes, but communicating a heart-felt apology (when the mistake effects another) as soon as possible will help in damage control of trust.

Nurture trust with others. It’s a precious thing. Once it’s damaged, sometimes it cannot be healed. If it can be renewed, it takes time to rebuild, just as it took time to create trust in the first place.

© Copyright 2013, Mary Claire O’Neal

Photo credit: Getty Images