Taking Yourself On: Effective Listening Skills
We hear the people around us, but do we really listen? Developing effective listening skills boosts our relationships and wellbeing—and maintains our personal power.
The goal of this series, Taking Yourself On, is to find success in making positive change. When we are taking on our flaws, it is just as important that we cultivate new ways of being, specifically those that help us to create a new system of helpful behaviors. This allows us to avoid defaulting to behaviors that don’t serve us. So, in the middle of this series, it is worth exploring and cultivating a couple of new skills that facilitate success in making positive change.
Tune Out Your Ego
In the making-positive-change toolbox, the most important tool for success is being an effective listener. This begins with focusing on and honing (or improving) our listening skills. Hearing is not listening. Often, people think they have strong listening skills, but that belief could be stemming from their ego’s emphasis on being right, being perfect, and knowing everything—without actually having achieved mastery of a skill. How do you know when you have mastered effective listening skills? In my opinion, when it shows up in your behaviors and life experiences.
Listen Up! Being Coachable Is Key
As with making any positive change, effective listening takes conscious effort. And nothing helps us accomplish mastery of effective listening more than being totally coachable. And I mean totally coachable—nothing short of or less than 100% ready to learn. A lot of the time, people who don’t listen also don’t like being told what to do. But being coachable means having the ability to be told what to do—and that’s the goal of effective listening because it pretty much ensures effective listening, right? Being receptive to coaching requires open-mindedness, focus, clarity, mindfulness, nonjudgement, patience, and a willingness (actually, an eagerness) to listen. We must be eager to listen to all of the good—and even the bad—without interrupting, negating what others say, or being attached to the outcome.
Master Effective Listening to Maintain Your Personal Power
In this sense, effective listening goes hand-in-hand with mastery of self. We really need to address how our individual reactions, triggers, and behaviors get in the way of our own effectiveness and listening. Effective listening is being able to listen without giving away our personal power, which is another sign of accomplishment and being coachable. So effective listening actually helps us maintain our personal power. I wonder, can you see that? I can listen to you without you having power over me. We all need to cultivate this. Why? So we can be there for those who need us, for those we love. So we can hear them and have clarity of mind when it comes to reacting and dealing with life’s situations. The goal of positive change with any life skill is always to achieve a level of mastery. We want to ingrain the new behavior so deeply that it meets all of our needs and becomes our new automatic response.
We certainly have listened effectively at times, so where we want to focus is where our tendency is, habitually, to shut down our ears, ask people not to say things (that’s a huge indication of a need to work on our listening skills), reject or disagree immediately, or become reactionary. This is basically any time our own behaviors, thinking, or triggers make us averse to listening to what people want to tell us or when we have a tendency to override what’s being said instead of actually listening to what is being said.
A Challenge Worth Taking On
To be honest, we all know (and might have firsthand experience) that people can say hurtful things we don’t want to hear. And I believe this actually weakens our tolerance for listening to contrary opinions, bad news, and the like. It closes us off. This doesn’t serve us. But, by working on our listening skills, we can undo this shutting down and closing off. We want our listening skills to be effective and our ears to be open. This serves our overall effectiveness and maintains our personal power, which is tremendously helpful. What I find is that effective listening really helps me be analytical, solve problems, and create solutions. This is because when we listen to people instead of just hearing them, problems are clearly understood and people are clearly understood, too.
Becoming an effective listener is well worth the effort. Gaining mastery of this life skill benefits you most, and it helps you to be there for others, too. It is a challenging process, cultivating new ways of listening. It requires developing additional new skills to prevent our own behaviors from getting in the way. For example, not taking things personally. Doing so enhances our listening skills, and it provides us with the patience, the problem-solving skills, and the communication skills we need. Another practice that also helps in accomplishing this is meditation. When we bring peace to the mind, silencing the internal chatter, it literally helps to sharpen our listening skills. Being mindful, present, and focused is the best way to implement your effective listening skills. And what I found is that acute effective listening also improves our hearing abilities. Win-win.