Your ability to truly listen to others is critical for building relationships and reducing stress. The reason is simple: The better you’re able to listen, the more the other person knows you care. When that sense of caring is present in a relationship, you and the other person experience less stress when you interact.
Unfortunately, few people know how to really listen. Have you ever talked to someone and noticed that they were not listening to you? How did it prompt you to feel? Disrespected? Unimportant? Angry? These are normal reactions. This is why listening is so important.
The key to listening is to be attentive. Don’t let your mind drift while the other person is talking. If your attention has a tendency to wander when you’re listening to someone, but you want to improve relationships, use this technique: Listen as if you were going to repeat back what the person told you. This can help you maintain attention or avoid a tendency to interrupt.
Some scientists say that about every 11 seconds our minds talk to us. When we’re listening to someone else speak to us—typically about 250 words a minute—our minds, which are capable of dealing with thousands of words per minute, go wandering off.
A Technique to Help You Listen
One way to keep your self-talk in check is to continually focus on the speaker by using the rapid repeat technique. Like anything new, it takes some practice. Here’s how it works: As you’re listening to someone, you talk along with the speaker in your mind as the person is talking, saying the exact words and phrases, in the same tonality, and at the same speed.
Using this technique, three things occur.
- First, you hold your concentration because your inner voice, your inner dialogue, has something to do.
- Second, this procedure enhances recall by reinforcing what you are hearing. Many studies have shown that listening is not nearly so effective in remembering as when listening and then repeating what you have heard.
- The third aspect has to do with attention. You are more apt to look at the speaker during the process, which promotes your attentiveness.
Tip: Good listening and caring are so intertwined that if we experience one, we also experience the other. Take the time to truly listen to others and watch your relationships improve dramatically.
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