I am currently enrolled in a management class where a primary part of the course is learning to listen. When I say listen, I really mean listen, not just hearing what the other person is saying. I am good at using my ears to hear but I’m not always the best at actually listening and empathizing with the speaker.
My lack of listening skills has a lot to do with the fact that I have 1,678,999 things in my head at once. I also have a lack of patience when listening, particularly when I already know what they are going to say or if they are talking about something way boring.
Most people when they are listening are thinking about what they are going to say or ask next, while not really listening to what the speaker is saying. I do that to some extent, but most of the time I am really just thinking about something completely different.
To improve our listening we have to participate in really silly exercises. They often make me uncomfortable because we have to discuss our “feelings”, which I hate doing. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the exercises because this guy gets paid to lead these classes. If I go around spilling his secrets then there could be problems.
However, the point of the exercises is to understand what the listener is saying how they are feeling.
For example: You are saying…. (insert synopsis of what the speaker told you) You are feeling…. (insert how you think THEY feel about the situation) No asking questions. No giving input on what they should do or how you would feel. This exercise is purely about the listener. The speaker gives the listener feedback, by either agreeing or trying to clarify more.
I found that I was good at understanding what they were saying, but I am not very good at identifying how they are feeling. The professor said that people can have a problem with that because we have a limited feeling vocabulary. Meaning, I tend to use a limited selection of feeling words to identify how I am feeling. My words and your words are not going to be the same.
For example. My partner for the exercise was talking about a difficult work situation. I really couldn’t put a word on how she was feeling. It was later revealed that dissatisfied was the word she associated with how she was feeling. When I heard it, the feeling made sense. But because it is not a word I use, I couldn’t come up with it on my own.
It should be noted that using these exercises exactly as described when talking to someone is not suggested. They will look at you like you are a crazy person.
I have noticed that since I started taking the class I am more careful to concentrate on what is being said to me. I am also realizing how often I try to insert my opinion or what I would do. That is a no-no when it comes to listening.