Understanding Other People through Active Listening

Ralph Nichols Quote

Ralph Nichols Quote

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols

One of the most neglected senses is listening. On the surface it may appear that listening is a very easy thing to do but ask a true listener and you will find that this is one of the hardest things to do without projecting your own ideas.

Usually when someone speaks to us, we think we are listening and indeed most of the time we may be listening. But how much of the time are we actually listening interactively by fully understanding what the other person is saying? When people speak there is so much we can understand about them and help them and comfort them with just our positive words.

Unfortunately, much of the time when we think we are listening, we are actually actively thinking about the response we will give the other person, either before they have finished speaking or just as their last words of the sentence have left their mouth. This is when we may pound with our opinion or “wonderful” advice!

There are basically two types of models which illustrate your ability to listening:

  1. The first one is when you pay attention and use phrases like “uh huh”, “right” etc. You resist the urge to barge in and help the other person resolve the problem. Instead you patiently allow the other person to understand what they are saying which they then feel better about afterwards as they feel that someone has actually heard them. It allows them to draw their own conclusions about where they are headed and to find a solution to their problems by themselves.
  2. The second one is when you repeat back to the person using different wordings to indicate that you are indeed listening at a level you understand the other person. This second form of listening has the added benefit of clearing up any misunderstandings that may arise during the communication process. For instance if someone says “I hate her”, you say: “You are angry”. They may answer “no, I am upset, not angry”. Following this type of acknowledgement listening, although you are interactive with the person you are listening to, the other person who is being listened to is given the choice to remain in control of where the conversation is headed.

People have a fundamental need to connect with others and if you, simply as a listener, fulfill that need, you are growing and contributing to the good things in life by passing on positive vibes of energy in the world.

When engaging in active listening, pay attention to the type of words the speaker is using and you are able to get involved in their world and understand their meaning at a deeper level. This will allow you to understand the thoughts behind their actions even to understand why they do the things they do, especially when they talk about the past.

The more you actively listen to people with skill, you will find that people begin to put their trust in you more and more and seek your company without you even trying. When we are in love we pay attention to every detail of the person of our desire. So if we treat each person with the respect they deserve chances are they will reciprocate that respect and pay you the same attention when you need it the most.

In some cases if we are being criticised, we may already have our defences up and what the other person says is not really listened to. This is when we actually need to listen especially attentively if only to question our own vanity and inner prejudice.

When you listen carefully to the other person’s nasty comments, it is actually a projection of their own negative thoughts and preconceived prejudices and there is usually a lack of confidence in such people. Underneath it all there is pain. You almost feel sorry for them when you can see these people under such microscopic conditions. It makes them feel better to belittle someone else.

But you can also ask yourself carefully and allow the defence system to gently shut down when you think over why that person is speaking to you in a manner you do not like. Although nobody deserves to be treated in a nasty way, ask that fundamental question, did you do something to ignite the anger of the other person which is why they are speaking to you in a manner you despise? Use this as a learning experience to either ignore people like this or to handle people in a different manner next time.

How about the change you make reflects that you simply listen and visualise the situation the other person is relating instead of imposing your own thoughts. You will remain gripped in their story and forget your own troubles.

So the next time you are with someone just resolve to listen to them properly instead of talking over them or advising them. You will be able to relate to them and find out who they truly are just from what they say. Becoming fully involved in their world, even for a while, makes all the difference.

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