It is very important to understand that listening and problem solving are two very different skills.
Before you can solve a problem, you have to understand the problem. Listening is the first step in understanding.
Have a desire to listen better. Ya gotta wanna If you don’t care about what the other person is thinking or feeling, you won’t be a good listener. By listening, you aren’t agreeing with the other person, you’re just trying to understand their point of view.
Become less self-centered. It isn’t all about you. Effective communication needs both people to feel respected and valuable. Often, other people have important ideas. Other points of view can make the “picture” of the problem more complete and accurate. It takes two (or more) to solve the problem. One person should not be the dictator.
Be quiet. It’s our nature to want to correct the other persons “mistakes.” We want to defend ourselves or explain. We are uncomfortable with long pauses or periods of silence. But, you can’t listen if you are talking. Sometimes, it takes the other person time to put ideas into words or to feel safe enough to share them.
Say to yourself: “Understanding what this person believes or feels is the most important thing in my life at this moment.” It doesn’t have to be the most important thing forever - just for the moment. You will be communicating respect to the other person and they will be more likely to show respect to you.
Really, really listen. Don’t think of your response until the other person is completely through talking. Suspend decision making. Don’t make any judgement calls. Focus on the other person. If there is a lot of information, take notes. Make sure they understand that you don’t want to forget anything they’ve said.
Save problem solving for another time. Otherwise, you may give the impression that you aren’t really listening.
Concentrate on every word the other person is saying. Don’t let yourself get distracted by other events or people. Look at the other person while they talk. Don’t fidget or wiggle. Ignore the telephone. Turn off the TV, radio, or whatever else may be making extra noise.
Seek clarification. Paraphrase what you think the other person said so they can correct you if needed. Ask questions if you don’t understand. Make sure any questions are not hidden accusations. Summarize.
Be polite Don’t finish sentences for the other person. Don’t jump to conclusions. Listen to the end. Don’t make faces or shake your head. Avoid any putdowns, sarcasm, or any words that are not respectful. Give the other person time to think before expecting a response.
How to end a listening session. Ask the other person if there is any thing else they want to say. Sincerely thank the other person for their time and for sharing. Tell them that you will think about what they’ve said and get back to them. Make an appointment to problem solve.
Often, just listening will solve much of the problem. Everyone wants to feel like they have been understood. Everyone wants to feel respected and valuable. Once they feel this, the other person may feel the problem is solved. The situation is almost always improved.
Best of all, you will be in a position of power because: You will understand the problem You will be able to come up with good solutions. You will be able to make the situation better for everyone. You will be looked at as a friend instead of an enemy.