The Art of Listening

While student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1961, I became friends with Carl Rogers, who was as one of the leading psychotherapists of the 20th century. He taught me much about the art of listening.

Dr. Rogers said that when we listen, and people know we are listening, it shows we truly care about them. In turn, they will respond by caring about you. It opens communication and also opens hearts. When we accept them as a person, unconditionally, they will be more kind to you.

We should listen without preconceptions, without anticipation and without judgement if we want others to portray what they truly feel. We listen with all our senses, not just to the words which are said. Some people cannot fully express themselves while speaking, so we must try to see them as they see themselves. We should watch for non-verbal clues as to what they really mean: facial expressions, body movements, etc.

While we should show positive regard for the other person, we should also demonstrate our own positive self-regard. We do not react to their negative comments, verbally or physically, even when we disagree with them. When they do ask for our opinion, however, we should respond with our true thoughts and in specifics rather than generalities. We offer our own perspective as other options rather than as contradiction.

Listening might seem quite passive as opposed to speaking. It is actually very active. To paraphrase Bobby Kennedy, "I learn while listening. When I talk I don't learn too much." If you think talking helps to spread your own wisdom, you are not really wise.

Don't talk, don't think, and don't react...concentrate on listening. When we talk we can't listen at all. When we think, we interrupt listening to them while formulating our response. When we react - through facial, bodily or verbal indicators - we might disrupt them. Most people listen poorly, hearing only part of what is said, and their thoughts drift away.

When someone is talking about something very personal, they are often hesitant or unable to reveal everything in their opening remarks. When they sense that you are truly interested, they will begin to develop it further. You, in turn, may be more willing to express your true feelings to someone who has opened themselves to you. Deep, meaningful conversations can result.

Listen with your heart, not just your ears and your mind. Be compassionate and empathetic. Try to discern not only their experiences and emotions, but also their motivations and reasoning. You may not agree, but you will then better understand. Don't offer advice unless asked (directly or indirectly) to do so.

(My publication)Posted:Jun 01 2017, 02:00 AM by Ron Krumpos
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