In order to be able to communicate well with others you have to learn how to listen. Even if you are the one with the problem and seeking help from a friend or loved one you need to learn how to listen so you can get the most out of the conversation! Did you know that your environment and your body language has more to do with listening than actually hearing a person's words? Everything from how you are sitting to where you are sitting applies to listening. These are called "attending skills" and there are thirteen of them. I am only going to cover half of them here then the other half tomorrow. Watch for these when you are talking with people and see if it makes a difference in your conversations.
1. Space: meaning how close or how far away you are sitting from the person you are talking to. Every parent knows (at least I hope they do) that to really get their child to listen they have to get on the child's level and close to them. The same goes for adults! If you are upset and sitting on one side of the room and trying to talk and come to terms with a person who is sitting clear across the room the conversation will not go very well, also if you are too close you will feel uncomfortable and unable to truly express what is bothering you. A good distance for listening to others is arms length.
2. Movement: Have you ever tried to talk to someone while they were walking away from you? It is pretty frustrating! How about when they are walking towards you? They usually hear you and pay attention to what you are saying, right? How about sitting on a couch facing you, did you know that if you lean towards to the person it is your body saying you are listening and if you are leaning away from them it says you're not? So make sure you are always coming towards a person with your body instead of away - but keep an arms length between the two of you!
3. Posture: How are you sitting or standing while trying to talk and listen to each other? Are you slouching, rigid, leaning away? Are you relaxed but attentive, seated and leaning toward the person? Are your arms folded or open? Did you know that if you are sitting with your legs crossed, arms folded and leaning back your body is telling the person that you don't care what they say you are closed off and your mind is made up? But if your feet are both on the floor and your hips are shoulder length apart, your arms are resting on your knees and you are leaning towards them your body says you are keeping an open mind and are listening.
4. Eye contact: are you looking at the person and maintaining eye contact or are you looking all over the place, anywhere but at them? If you are looking at the computer and not the person talking to you where is your attention really? I used to never be able to look in a persons eyes because I had such horrible self esteem and didn't feel worthy to look in a persons eyes so keep that in mind if a person is looking at you but not your eyes it might have more to do with them being uncomfortable than not listening.
5. Time: There have been many times in my married life where I have been reading a book and my husband has started talking to me and I have literally not heard him because I am so into my book. Or I have been reading a blog and he has called and I have tuned him out completely. This is what time is referring to, are you continuing what you were doing before the person started talking to you or have you stopped, put it aside and given the person your time? I have to literally close the laptop or put the book away if I am going to really be able to pay attention.
6. Feet/legs: are you using your legs to keep distance between you and a person or are they unobtrusive and unnoticeable? Have you ever been sitting on the couch facing another person and your legs or the other person's are on the couch creating a barrier? Move your legs to the side and keep the space between you and the person you are talking to open and free.
7. Furniture: Think about a counselor's office, when they have you sit down it is typically them sitting in a chair facing a couch or two chairs and then you are sitting on one of the chairs/couch facing them and there is nothing in between you. I am not going to have a deep conversation with a person at a table, I am going to move to the living room and ideally have us both sitting on the couch facing each other.
Think about these things as you talk to people throughout the day - even if it isn't deep and see if it effects the conversation!