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The Importance of Listening to People

Can you tell when someone else is — and is not — listening to you? There are obvious signs when someone is not engaged or paying attention, just as there are nonverbal cues that reveal they are distracted.

After all, listening is about receiving information, both verbal and nonverbal, that reveals and clarifies information. Listening is absorbing what someone is sharing with you, so it is imperative that you pay attention to understand their meaning, intent, and mood, particularly in exchanges that go beyond mere social interactions. Directions, instructions, and information can be lost in translation, so to speak, when one or both parties fail to truly listen.

Listening is integral to effective communication with others. Here are some tips to help you listen and communicate better.

Pay Attention

It makes sense that the first element of listening is paying attention. How else can you catch what is being said if your mind is someplace else?

Exert the energy required to focus your attention on the person speaking to you by eliminating distractions such as phones. Setting aside distractions to fully immerse yourself in what the other person is saying demonstrates respect and integrity. Your actions won’t go unnoticed by peers and colleagues.

Don’t Interrupt

If someone interrupts you, they are not hearing the words that are coming out of your mouth. This works both ways: when you interrupt, you are missing what could be vital information.

Even if you think that you know what other people are going to say, interrupting opens up the door to misunderstandings and assumptions that could be wrong. Furthermore, it may be perceived as being a rude way to treat others.

When it comes to addiction and the twelve steps of recovery, allowing others to speak uninterrupted is critical to the treatment process. As part of the healing process, you could try this out to listen to others and have them understand you in return.

Be Attentive

It is not enough to pay attention and not interrupt to be a good listener. Practice being an attentive listener, too, if you want to engage in effective and meaningful exchanges with others.

Work on recognizing nonverbal cues as well as demonstrating them appropriately. This includes nodding in agreement to something being said or identifying that someone is bored by what you are saying by the way they cross their arms.

There are some impressive advantages to attentive listening, not just in the workplace, but also in therapeutic settings. Attentive listening can help avoid conflict and de-escalate a crisis. It may also serve to build trust and rapport among peers or among people in therapeutic relationships, offering insight and openness among those engaged in the exchange.

Be Authentic

There is a common obstacle that many experiences when trying to hone their listening skills and it involves rehearsing your response in your head while someone is still speaking. This may alleviate the anxiety of being “put on the spot” for a reaction, but it could cause you to miss crucial information that is being spoken as you rehearse your response.

It is okay to pause and take the time to respond when the speaker is finished. Imagine your embarrassment if you ask a question that has been directly addressed just prior to your inquiry.

Instead, try to be authentic and listen. Preparing your response ahead of time may make you appear disingenuous or inauthentic to those around you, whether at work, among loved ones, or in therapeutic settings.

Avoid Misunderstandings

One important aspect of listening to others is that it could help you prevent and avoid misunderstandings. Listening is an integral part of communication and, as such, if people’s listening skills are absent or subpar, misunderstandings could occur. They may be mild in nature or they could be the catalyst for major conflict.

Don’t risk being misunderstood and make sure that you are hearing what others try to say. Failing to hear and comprehend what someone says may also affect the response that you give to them. When you misinterpret information, it can complicate the situation and cause unnecessary confusion, confrontation, and conundrums.

Do any of the following scenarios related to miscommunication sound familiar?

  • Project lags or delays due to needs that people don’t convey in an adequate matter
  • Frustration related to ambiguity during a discussion
  • Misinterpreting tone, or intent of spoken words, emails, or interactions
  • Organizational issues related to poor instruction from peers or leaders

Preventing these situations is as simple as learning to listen to what others are trying to tell you. Clarify any information that is ambiguous or unclear to further prevent issues, lags, or obstacles.

Communication is essential in recovery. Learning to communicate needs — and listening to what others tell you what they need — can prevent misunderstandings and problems and even help prevent relapses. Want more help with your treatment and recovery? Consider talking with experts about treatment today.

Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, patrick-profile-picture-585x329addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. 


Sources – 8 Ways to Tell If Someone Is Not Listening – Five Benefits of Attentive Listening – The Importance of Listening, and Ways to Improve Your Own Skills

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