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Listen to Your Friends

Oct 9, 2007
Some of you may think you do but you really don't. You hear but you don't listen. To hear is to just perceive sound but to listen is to pay attention.

Let's start with the obvious. You can't possibly listen to someone if you are talking at the same time. This bears repeating. YOU CAN'T POSSIBLY LISTEN TO SOMEONE IF YOU ARE TALKING AT THE SAME TIME.

So how does one listen? Dr. Cheryl A. Burton ,LCSW-R, DSW, psychotherapist in White Plains, NY, "The art of good listening involves the ability to hold comments which would interrupt the flow of what the speaker is trying to express, as well as the rush to respond immediately before fully digesting what is being expressed."

Let's say your friend is talking about their lousy significant other and before they can even finish what they are saying, you are interrupting with questions or finishing their sentences because you think they are taking to long to get to the point. That's not listening. That's you talking. It's rude, annoying, ruins the flow of conversation and I'm sure you don't like it when people do it to you.

Good listeners are active listeners. An active listener shows signs that they are actually listening such as leaning forward, giving nonverbal communication, such as facial expressions, smiling, nodding, or saying yes or umm hmm so that they know you are really paying attention. Also a good way to show you are listening is to restate or summarize their points to make sure you understand. A good listener will devote their full attention and not be distracted by surfing the Web, watching TV or looking at papers and claiming that they are listening.

Now you may be wondering why in the world should I be a good listener? What am I getting out of it? "Good listening skills are important because it communicates to the speaker that one is interested in him/her, and what is being said. One can respond more effectively and accurately if one has received the complete message that the speaker is expressing," says Burton.

A bad listener is just the opposite of a good listener. But just in case it is not clear to you, people who have not learned the art of listening will: cut you off in mid-conversation to state their point, totally misconstrue what you said, predetermine what you are going to say, think of what to reply with next instead of listening, have no clue as to what you actually said, and seem distracted or look bored, to name a few.

My biggest problem with people who don't listen are the ones who want to give their unsolicited advice. A majority of the time, people don't need you to always have something to say back. They may just want to vent, confess or just get whatever it is off their mind and out in the open. They don't need you to try and solve the problem or to agree with them. Please, shut up!

Now that you have read this article, think back to your past conversations and be honest with yourself, are you a good listener or a bad listener? I can honestly say I have become a better listener over the years. Instead of inflicting my opinions on people, I've learned to shut my trap and focus on what they are saying. It doesn't always work but I'm trying.

Below is a poem I found while cleaning my apartment. It really gets to the heart of the topic this article. Read it carefully and digest what it is saying and next time someone says they have to tell you something, I hope you will actually sit back and listen.

Please Listen
Author Unknown

When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving me advice,
you have not done what I asked.
When I ask you to listen to me
and you begin to tell me why
I shouldn't feel that way,
you are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me
and you feel you have to do something
to solve my problem,
you have failed me,
strange as that may seem.
Listen! All I ask is that you listen.
Don't talk or do---just hear me.
Advice is cheap; 20 cents will get
you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham
in the same newspaper.
And I can do for myself; I am not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering,
but not helpless.
When you do something for me that I can
and need to do for myself,
you contribute to my fear and
But when you accept as a simple fact
that I feel what I feel,
no matter how irrational,
then I can stop trying to convince
you and get about this business
of understanding what's behind
this irrational feeling.
And when that's clear, the answers are
obvious and I don't need advice.
Irrational feelings make sense when
we understand what's behind them.
Perhaps that's why prayer works, sometimes,
for some people---because God is mute,
and he doesn't give advice or try
to fix things.
God just listens and lets you work
it out for yourself.
So please listen, and just hear me.
And if you want to talk, wait a minute
for your turn---and I will listen to you.
About the Author
ChaChanna Simpson is an editor, author, professional speaker. She has been empowering twentysomethings with real, no holds barred advice on successfully transitioning into life after college. For more articles visit Twentity.com
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