To listen beyond words


Research shows us that we in general can talk 125 to 140 words per minute. But we have the capacity to listen 5-10 times faster! So what do you do when your friend tells you about her problems? You think! You have plenty of time to think about a similar problem that you once had yourself, or how you can best give her some advice based on your experiences, or you might even start to think about that trip you booked yesterday.

Most people have continuous “inner monologues” going on when someone else is talking. We might gather new arguments in a heated discussion or, if we feel some kind of criticism from the other person, we might search for evidence to defend ourselves as soon as there’s a gap in the conversation. This way of listening is not good if you really want to help your friend. To listen in a helpful way, you have to let go of that monologue and focus on the other person. You have to allow your empathy to come through. That is actually the most important. If she sees and feels that you are truly listening to her, it might be the best help you can offer. Good advice and associated stories that you have created instead of listening aren’t at all as useful as silent, empathetically listening.

There is actually one more level of advanced listening. If you feel that you really want to say something to help anyhow, not based on your own feelings and thoughts, but on your friend’s emotions right now, you should try to listen “globally”.

When you listen globally you are still totally focused on your friend, but you add the rest of the senses. How does she look? What about her body language? In what tone is she telling you about her problems? You should not start your inner monologue again, but you should try to hear what your intuition is telling you. Do you have the feeling that there is something she is NOT telling you? Does she sound frightened even if she doesn’t say so?

Trust your intuition and ask her about it. “I get the feeling that you are afraid of something. Is that correct?”. “You tell me that you don’t care about that anymore, but to me you look quite angry. Are you angry about something in particular?” That might bring her thoughts to a deeper level and help her find her own answers on how to solve her problem.

I’d be happy to hear your comment on this! And if you like what you’ve read, please share it!

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