“Thank you for listening.” And I forgot what I wanted to say next.
In my teenage years, I wasn’t the most social person. I had one best friend and that was more than enough. He was and today he still is one of the most social and loveable person I have ever met. Many people liked to hang around with him, no matter the age differences. I couldn’t help but ask myself why — Why do people love to be around him? For a long time, I thought that being social came naturally to him.
In my early 20s, I have finally started to become more social. I met different kinds of people and made some friends along the way. One day, a friend called me if I was able to have a talk. I thought it would be a fun talk about how our day was as usual. But instead, the talk was about having a big fight her with parents. The call went on and on and it was wearing. Like any other conversations, I would listen, at least that’s what I thought, and then respond.
“Thank you for listening.” And I forgot what I wanted to say next. It was the first time someone ever thanked me for listening. Suddenly, I didn’t reply at all. I just listened.
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” — Bryant H. McGill
Finally, I understood why people loved to be around him.
I Looked Back
At that time of my life, I was thinking too much about what I wanted to say next. I listened from a place of judgement, not understanding. Instead of asking questions, I jumped to conclusions. I made their stories to be about me. And you know what? It isn’t about me.
I wanted to change this behaviour of mine, because everyone should have the opportunity to be listened to. I wanted to value talkers, who make listeners feel valuable.
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” — Dalai Lama
Now, I listen to understand, not to judge; I listen for perspective, not for words; I listen to engage, not to respond. These are my lessons learned that I want to share with you.
1. Listen To Understand
At first, I didn’t realise that people would feel mentally pressured from judgements. They feel that they can’t share their ideas or feelings because they’re just going to get mentally and emotionally kicked down in the process. All they want is to feel understood and they want to feel that the listener cares.
It’s the same as what I would want. And I bet it’s the same what your partners, your friends, your colleagues, and your family would want as well.
When I stopped judging people for their actions and started approaching conversations from a place of understanding, many incredible things started to happen. They became more honest and authentic. They would go out of their way to thank me for allowing them to share their joyful and sad moments.
“By listening with calm and understanding, we can ease the suffering of another person.” — Nhat Hanh
2. Listen For Perspective
Too often, I had been listening for words, and not for perspectives. I learned that 55% of communication comes from our body language, 38% comes from our tone of voice, and 7% comes from our actual words. That means that 93% of what’s being communicated is non-verbal.
I came from a place of judgement and as you may know by now, I wasn’t properly listening to take in all the relevant information that I needed by asking questions or giving answers. No, that was just a tiny 7%!
It became clear to me that if I wanted to listen properly, I must pursue to understand other’s perspectives. Only then, will I be able to understand why they have the view that they hold. You and me, we have perspective, body language, and most importantly, emotion. Why not use these to understand each other and make better decisions?
“In the perspective of every person lies a lens through which we may better understand ourselves.” — Ellen J. Langer
3. Listen To Engage
When I listened without judgement, I noticed improvements in overall communication and understanding. I often remembered myself to welcome different perspectives, allowing others to feel safe in expressing their viewpoint. This made to go out of my comfort zone, realising that 93% is communicated non-verbally, helped me be more aware of how I communicate.
Only when understanding and perspective are intertwined, could I listen to engage.
Being present and engaging authentically, meaning not thinking of what I will say next, but truly listening to what is being said, got me into the most memorable and meaningful conversations of my life. And I want you to pursuit yours as well.
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An Ear Listening… A Heart Understanding… And A Silence Engaging was originally published in The Startup on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.