Good listening skills can provide you with a deeper level of understanding about someone’s situation, and helps to know what words are best to use or which words to avoid. As simple as listening (and acknowledging) may seem, doing it well, particularly when disagreements arise, takes sincere effort and lots of practice.
Place yourself in the other person’s shoes. It’s easy to get lost in yourself and to only consider the impact of the other person’s “telling” on you. But active listening is blocked by your inward thinking. Instead, you must open out and look at the problems from the other person’s perspective: and assume that if you had been in their shoes, you would have seen your way through the problem much faster. By being a good listener this can also help you become better friends with the person by getting to know more about them.
Avoid comparing the person’s experiences to your own. Though you may think that the best thing you can do to really listen is to compare the person’s experiences to your own, this is far from the truth. If the person is talking about dealing with a death in the family, you can share some wisdom, but avoid saying, “That’s exactly like how it was with me…” This can come off as offensive or insensitive especially when you compare something really serious to your own less-intense experiences, such as comparing the person’s divorce to your three-month long relationship this may cause discomfort to the person talking.
Another thing that people do they think is helpful is to “one-up” the person they are listening to. By “one-up” you tell them about the experience you had and how much worse you had it.
I see this a lot when it comes to people that are going to have surgery. They will tell someone that they are going in for a procedure and the person they are talking to will say, “I had that surgery. You know I died on the table. I’m lucky to be alive.”
Why do people feel the need to share such experiences especially when they are not helpful, and can cause the other person more stress? If this is a habit that you have, I am asking you to please stop and think before you speak. This is a terrible and thoughtless habit.
Don’t try to help immediately. Some people think that, when they’re listening, they should also have their gears turning to find a quick and easy solution to the person’s problem. Instead of this attitude, you should take what the person says at face value, and take the time to think of a “solution” when the person is speaking — and only if he or she is really looking for help in this way. If you start frantically thinking of all of the quick fixes for the person’s problems, then you won’t really be listening.