How We Listen Matters—Unlock the Secrets to Effective Communication with These 7 Essential Tips

Enhance Your Listening Skills – 7 Expert Tips for Better Communication

Young woman listening to her friends in a cafe bar Image by kelvinjay / iStock September 17, 2023

We’re all stuck in a constant stream of communication these days, from texts to Zoom meetings to emails to comments sections to DMs. But let’s be honest, most of the time we’re not really listening. Studies show that adults in the U.S. only take in and comprehend less than 25% of what they hear in any given conversation. That’s like listening to a song and only catching the chorus.

And it’s not just a harmless little quirk. When we don’t listen, we find ourselves drowning in unnecessary conflict. Toxic conversations, fights, and misunderstandings become our new normal. We lose touch with our own voices and the stories we’re meant to tell. It’s like we’re trying to have a conversation in a crowded subway train.

But here’s the good news: listening is not a lost art. It’s just hiding behind a thick layer of noise. And the power to uncover it lies within you, my friend.

Think of listening as a natural instinct, just like eating, breathing, or sleeping. We’re born with the ability to listen, but somewhere along the way, we forget how. Maybe it’s because listening can be emotionally risky. It requires us to open ourselves up to the world and truly hear what’s being said. But when we do it with care, listening becomes a way to show love and make space for others. It’s like giving your ears a big warm hug.

And the benefits go far beyond being a great listener. Listening actually has health benefits too. It lowers cortisol levels, which helps us relax and open up to the world. It’s like having a spa day for your ears. But why don’t we listen more? Well, life throws all sorts of stress at us. Trauma, burnout, compassion fatigue, you name it. It’s like we’re living in a never-ending episode of a reality TV show called “Stressed Out and Always Busy”.

But fear not, my dear listener. There are ways to break free from the noise and rediscover the lost art of listening. It starts with you, your body, and some good old-fashioned relaxation.

Take a moment to listen to your body. No, I don’t mean putting a seashell up to your ear. I mean really listen to the messages your body is sending you. Does your back ache? Does your stomach grumble? Does your hair have something to say? Give yourself a body scan, starting from the soles of your feet and working your way up. Each ache and sensation has something to tell you, so pay attention. It’s like your body is a library and each ache is a book whispering its secrets to you.

Now, let’s talk about relaxation. Just like food needs to be digested, stories need to be processed too. So take some time to rest and listen to the stories you’re carrying. Whether it’s a nap, a yoga class, or a run, find what helps you relax and release. It’s like a spa day for your mind. And as you move through the world, take a moment to center yourself before entering a conversation and after it ends. A few deep breaths can work wonders.

But here’s where things get really mystical. Embrace the silence, my friend. Meditation is like a secret portal to the art of listening. Seek out moments of silence throughout your day and embrace them. Start with just a minute, then work your way up to three minutes. It’s like inviting your mind to a peaceful tea party.

Oh, and don’t forget your ancestors. They’ve got stories to tell too. And I’m not just talking about your great-great-grandma’s recipe for chocolate cake. Your ancestors can be anyone who inspires and guides you, real or imagined. Ask them questions, write them letters, connect with their images or relics. It’s like having a long-distance call with your spiritual BFF.

Feelings are like little messengers sent from our hearts. Each emotion has its own wisdom and message. But too often, we cut them off before they can finish their sentence. So let your feelings rise and fall. Label them and sit with them. It’s like being a detective of your own emotions.

Now, I know life can get busy, but make some space in your day to practice listening. Turn off your phone, shut down your computer, and just let yourself be. Read, draw, write or simply stare out the window. This is your time to cultivate a listening space. It’s like creating a cozy little nook for your ears to curl up in.

And finally, my dear listener, sometimes it’s okay to do nothing. Let others come to you. Allow someone else to speak without interruption. It’s a beautiful gift to give, the gift of your undivided attention. It’s like pressing the pause button on life and giving someone a moment in the spotlight.

So, my friend, start by listening to yourself. Let the stories within you bloom and mingle with the stories the world sends your way. Even in this chaotic world, we can all use a little more listening. And you, my lovely listener, have the power to make a difference. So put on your metaphorical headphones and let the symphony of life play on.