Health and Barriers to Listening
Learning to listen brings tremendous, and often immediate, rewards that contribute to health and happiness on all sides. We relieve stress; we meet the other on common ground; we provide them with caring and attention. To be listened to is to be acknowledged as a worthwhile human being - and that's the best medicine there is.
When you are open to hearing my story, and I am open to hearing yours, when we are truly aware of one another and sensitive to what each of us needs, then we are experiencing dialogue.
Carl Rogers, the eminent psychologist who first coined the phrase active listening, said: Real communication occurs . . . when we listen with understanding. What does this mean? It means to see the expressed idea and attitude from the other person's point of view, to sense how it feels to him, to achieve his frame of reference in regard to the thing he is talking about. . . . If I can really understand how he hates his father or hates the university or hates communists - if I can catch the flavor of his fear . . . it will be the greatest help to him in altering these very hatreds and fears and in establishing realistic and harmonious relationships with the very people and situations toward which he has felt hatred and fear."*
When you listen to me without interruption or
anything that feels like a judgment, you
allow me the time and space to get more in
touch with the many facets of me
Thank you for never playing with my words,
getting a laugh or recognition at my expense.
When you allow me to revise or restructure what I
have said, I feel that you are truly committed
to understanding me and what I'm about.
Thank you for not feeling that you necessarily
have to do something about what I share.
When you listen, I feel that you are listening
not only to my words but the feelings behind them.
Bless you for being you and thereby assisting me in my journey. - Bennett Kilpack, MFCC
Communication specialist Jud Morris sums up the ways in which we block or discourage understanding by poor habits of listening:
- Evaluation, judgment. We are so busy planning our attack, or criticizing the other's message, that we often do not really hear what is being said.
- Jumping to conclusions. We jump to conclusions, filling in our own details before the other has had a chance to explain himself or herself.
- "We're all the same." We assume that other people think as we do.
- Attitude, the closed mind. We tune out people with whom we don't agree.
- Lack of attention. We let our minds wander.
- Wishful hearing. We tend to hear just what we want to hear, or expect to hear.
- Excessive talking. We interrupt or dominate the conversation so that the other doesn't get a chance to adequately express his or her ideas.
- Unclear words. We fail to find out what the other means by the particular words he/ or she chooses.
- Lack of humility. We feel that we must express our superiority by speaking or contradicting the other.
- Fear. We avoid listening with understanding because we are afraid that the other may challenge some long-held belief. We are afraid to be threatened by a new idea.
If these are the non-building blocks, what are the building blocks?
List some yourself:
* Rogers, C., "Communication: Its Blocking and Its Facilitation," ETC. Vol. 9 (Winter 1952), 84.