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How to Improve Communication and Listening Skills

Sometimes I think listening is a lost art. I had the following experience: Hurricane Sandy was just a few hours away from landfall, and my 21-year-old son lives in Manhattan. Naturally I was a bit worried. In light of the impending storm, many people asked, “Do you have anyone in the storm’s path?” I answered affirmatively, hoping to talk a bit about my son and my worry. However, the other person immediately began to tell me about all of the people she knew who were also somewhere in the storm’s path.

Her heart was in the right place and she probably thought she was being supportive by indicating that she was in the same boat. However, what it felt like was that she really didn’t care about me, or my son, and it was all about her.

Listening is not thinking about what you are going to say once the other person has finished speaking. Listening is not waiting for the other person to stop speaking so that you can say something about yourself. If you want to improve listening skills, it is important to know the listening definition: listening is doing the sometimes difficult work of really understanding what the speaker is saying and then verbalizing what you have understood.

When we listen, there are several things we can do to show the speaker we are really listening. First, let the speaker know you heard him by responding with a statement like, “It must be really scary having family in a storm when you can’t help.” Next, ask a question such as, “Does he have enough supplies to get through the storm?” This indicates to the speaker that you are trying to understand and hear him.

This process is called Reflective Listening, and it really does work as a way of how to improve communication! The process ensures that the person who is speaking feels heard and understood. To be listened to and understood feels like being loved. Love the people in your life today. Listen.

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