With so much controversy in these modern times, it’s difficult to feel like our voices could ever make a difference. Frequently we have so much to say, and no one who’s willing to listen. Everywhere we turn we’re bombarded with various loud opinions, frequently outshining our own. Whether it be an influx of tweet replies, an overzealous debate on the subway or at your families holiday dinner table-you’re bound to come in contact with some opinions you don’t agree with. That being said, some of us aren’t always the best listeners either. I admittedly being one of those people. Being a good listener takes a certain combination of skill sets-luckily, all of which are able to be self taught. If you ever catch yourself in one of those heated conversations; take a deep breath, and follow these next steps. Soon enough you’ll master the art of listening.
Keep an open mind.
Walking into a controversial conversation can best be described as a verbal war-zone. Harsh words are flying at one another like daggers. Feelings of frustration are flooding the room. After hours of fighting, nothing was truly accomplished. No one feels as though their point was heard, because it truly wasn’t. Their opinion was muffled under the arguments from those with differing opinions.
Before you walk into a highly emotional situation, you must always have remember to keep an open mind. If you were to walk into a conversation with an open mind; you’ll find that you actually may learn something. Perhaps you won’t agree with the opposing standpoint-but you may learn something about the person or why they think a certain way. Remember that just because their opinion isn’t the same as yours, does not mean it isn’t valid. Always take the time to see where someone is coming from.
Keep comments to yourself until the time is appropriate.
If you don’t agree with something that someone has said, that’s okay. That being said, disagreeing doesn’t always mean that you have the right to comment on their statement. If someone is venting to you; odds are they aren’t looking for someone to argue with what their feeling at that time. What they’re looking for is solidarity, comfort or a place to lay out their jumbled thoughts. When and if the time is appropriate, it’s okay to spark a conversation about what you disagreed with. But more times then not-it wasn’t even that big of a deal and doesn’t need to be brought up again. Always remember that some conversations allow you to share your opinions, and some just require you to stay quiet, and show your support and love. Always assess the situation before you think about sharing your comments.
Wait your turn.
Getting your thoughts out into the air is tricky enough while holding a conversation with another individual. But then there’s the difficult task of conversing with a large group of people. Multiple different opinions are being tossed around the table. Often, you’ll find that if you’re really listening to the conversation; you’ll hear the same opinions being tossed around multiple times by different people. Most people don’t catch the repetition, because they aren’t actually listening-they’re just waiting for someone to take a breath so they can speak their mind too. At that point, I’d recommend butting in and trying to redirect the conversation to a more effective manor-otherwise the conversation will just continue in a downward spiral.
Direct the group to go around in a circle and share their main point or opinion. Once everyone has shared their opinion-then people can begin to make further comments. If you have something to say in conjunction to what is being said, patiently wait until the other people have fully had a chance to open their part of the conversation. In my own experience, if you set the example of waiting for your turn to talk without interjecting, others will follow suit.
This may seem childish, but sometimes it’s the only way to get a group of opinionated people to hear one another out. By redirecting the conversation, you will help others pay attention to the many opinions being tossed around; instead of just hearing their own. This will also lead to a more intelligent and thought provoking conversation, which is much more interesting then a conversation where no one could get a word in edgewise. Always remember that being patient and level headed will lead you to hold a more favorable conversation.
The golden rule.
“Treat others the way you want to be treated.” We’ve all heard that mantra various times throughout our life. Ironically, the golden rule is also the key to success when you’re attempting to master the art of listening. Which, if you think about it-totally makes sense. Would you want to be cut off, talked over, and argued with over one small opinion? Odds are your answer is no. If you treat the person you’re talking to with respect, they’re far more likely to treat you with the same respect when it is your turn to speak. Always take a step back and reevaluate the tone of your voice, or how frequently you’re trying to when it isn’t your turn. Take a look at your body language. You should be making eye contact-not checking your phone and not looking too eager to interject. These are the things that so many of us don’t even consciously realize we’re doing, but can come across as disrespectful to the other individual.
You aren’t always right.
Your opinion does not always mean that it’s the right opinion. All opinions are valid, regardless of the topic. Take the time to hear someone out, and see the other side of the argument. When you’re listening to the other person speak, fully engage in listening. Don’t worry about what you’re going to say next, or what your stand point is. Take the time to set your opinion aside and see their point from an open mind. If you walk into a conversation being completely pigheaded, you’ll gain no knowledge or understanding from the conversation.
At the end of the day your opinion may not sway at all, and odds are it probably won’t. Often times, there is no correct opinion. It’s totally fine to still hold the same opinion in the end of your conversation. As long as you were able to listen to someone else’s thoughts and it brought a new perspective to you; you’ve done your job as a good listener. Always remember that every conversation is a new opportunity for you to practice your listening skills. Just because your opinions differ, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to see the other side.
Every conversation is a learning experience.
You must always remember that mastering the art of listening will take time. You’ll need to practice throughout every single conversation you hold and you must keep these few things in mind. Enter any and every controversial conversation with an open mind. In doing this, you’ll ensure that you put your own personal beliefs to the side and take the time to really listen to one another. In addition, you must always keep yourself in check and apply the golden rule to all of your day to day conversations. A good conversation will always be built off of whether or not you’re showing respect to one another, and acknowledging that the other person’s opinions are just as valid as your own. Always remember to remain patient and continue to practice listening at any opportunity. Before you know it, you’ll officially have mastered the art of listening.