The Power of Joy
Listening with a full heart
Why is it when we can’t do something, that’s suddenly all we want to do? This came to me the other day while propped in the dentist chair. I have one job there-keep my mouth open. That’s all I have to do. But, it feels impossible. I open my mouth and immediately want to talk, swallow, close my mouth, and of course, leave. But I can’t do any of those things!! It’s not so hard keeping my mouth open, but I find myself forgetting and slowly closing more and more until the dentist gives a gentle, “Open a little wider please.”
The whole dentist chair experience is always a bit wonky, isn’t it? The normal social graces kind of go down the metaphoric drain each time they ask a question and we grunt back or shake our heads up and down or side to side. There’s really not much to do, except listen. Now there are things I don’t want to hear in the dentist chair like the drill, but it’s kind of an interesting exercise in trying to build a relationship without talking.
Our podcast this week is about how to really listen to another person, really listen to hear, not just to wait for your turn to say something. As a journalist, we are taught to listen. That’s how we get information. But in real life, listening with an open ear and a full heart is filled with “Yeah BUT!” roadblocks. But if we can learn to listen so that someone else walks away feeling that they were understood and respected, well that’s just going to make all of our relationships so much better.
Positive psychology teaches us to be active players in shaping the life and the loves that we want to have and enjoy, and so learning to listen better is part of an intention we can set for how we can handle our next conflict, romantic encounter, work dispute, or even just a random trip to the dentist.
The Power of Why
Listening to effectively connect
Listening is a skill that takes practice and intention. All too often we hear others, but we don’t truly listen. Maybe we are distracted by our own thoughts, or we are multitasking and only giving half of our attention to the other person, or possibly we are emotionally hijacked by something they said and we can’t get beyond our feelings of “I’m right and you’re wrong!” But the truth is that listening is the key to truly connecting with others.
In his book, Just Listen, Mark Goulston provides the following basic rules for listening to effectively connect with people:
- Rewire yourself to listen. Too often we are distracted or thinking about what we are going to say next. We talk over each other and not to each other. We need to actively focus on what the other person is saying and stay present in the conversation.
- Make the other person feel felt. When people feel felt they feel less alone, anxious and afraid. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes - attach an emotion to what you think the other person is feeling, then say “I’m trying to get a sense of what you’re feeling and I think it’s …., is that correct? If it’s not, then what are you feeling?” Let the person vent without becoming defensive. Then ask “what needs to happen for that feeling to feel better? And what part can I play in making that happen?”
- Be more interested than interesting! Listen more than you talk. Everyone has an interesting story to tell. Listen to them instead of trying to impress them. Don’t just act interested, BE interested! Stop thinking of a conversation as a tennis match. Think of it as an investigation where you want to learn as much about the other person as you can.
- Make people feel valuable and important! Let them know that they make a difference in the world. Tell them how they make your life better. Even the people who are difficult!! They don’t feel special and that’s why they are difficult! They complain because they don’t feel valued. Oftentimes people act out because they don’t feel appreciated.