Can we hear each other? Are we paying attention? What can we do differently to listen? Do we listen? Do we effectively listen? Do we want to know about listening and effective listening? Do we want to know the differences between each? Too many questions.
As certified peer specialists like myself, we use effective listening techniques when working with many peers. Not only is this a good technique for peers, but for everyone, because we all need to listen better. Listening is to give one’s attention to a sound. According to Maryville University, there are four types of listening.
It happens when we’re committed to understanding what the other person’s trying to say. This version helps to build trust and rapport and makes us feel comfortable with our thoughts and ideas.
It involves paying the closest attention to what the speaking is conveying. Primarily this is used in a classroom when someone is trying to teach us how to complete tasks and when discussing work projects with our professors and supervisors.
Incorporates systematic reasoning and careful thought to analyse a person’s talk and try to discern fact from opinion. This occurs when we have a personal agenda, such as political debates or a salesperson making a pitch.
It means giving our friends, colleagues or our family members to discuss their issues. This involves applying many non-verbal cues, like nodding and maintaining eye contact. Also, we need to understand what they are feeling about their experiences and their situations.
Effective listening is an active way to listen and something we need to learn and undertake for personal growth. Continuously, we must focus our attention on the person speaking along with their message. Also, we need to let the speaker know we understand what is being talked about. Some of these ways include sustaining eye contact when we can ask follow-up questions or comments, be attentive and engaged at this moment and never, never interrupt who is speaking.
The difference between listening and effective listening is that we know what we are listening for; some cues guide our questions. Peer specialists and others try to figure out one’s self-identity at present, what the person thinks would improve their life, and what they think is standing in the way of any or all of these goals. Self-image, goals and barriers are simple things to listen for actively.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to listen effectively. Often, because of our anxieties, we tend to interrupt the other individual. This happens when one or more of these occur, including advice, judgements, criticisms, or comparative stories of our own, or even the need to one-up the person. Effective listening means there may be moments of silence. In that instance, silence is OK.
Remember, the peer specialist person’s role is to guide their peer into listening to their inner truth with open, honest questions. These questions go by the old rules of journalism: who, what, where, when, how, but why is never involved. Why can’t all of us make other people defensive?
However, honest, truthful questions mean that one doesn’t already know the answer. The peer may feel their intelligence insulted by such questions. Be very careful; our role as peer specialists is always to listen and not make the situation worse.
The next time anyone has a conversation with a friend, try using some or all of these techniques offered. It can be difficult. As peer specialists, we try not to fix, save, advise, judge, or set the person straight. We listen and ask honest,non-judgmental comments or questions. It is interesting how much people appreciate it. Are all of us listening?
Howard Diamond is a certified peer specialist in New York.
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