Have you been in a conversation where the other person (people) don’t seem to be listening? Do they interrupt to make their point? Are they simply missing the message you are trying to convey? Of course, you have. If we are honest, we have been on both sides of this scenario. However, if we begin to listen to understand and not to respond, our conversations will be a lot more enjoyable and effective. Whether in your personal or professional life, establishing a level of appreciative listening will allow you to build stronger relationships and have more relevant conversations.
Appreciative listening starts with a basic understanding that we should want to listen to understand the other person’s perspective. You are open to their thoughts and ideas. You aren’t positioning your next statement in your mind, as doing this will cause you to miss a large piece of the other’s point and message. If you truly listen to gain their perspective, your responses will be more thought out and effective. You will be able to compare with your perspectives, have a more conscious thought process and maybe change your narrative. However, appreciative listening doesn’t mean that you must change your view to be aligned, it simply means being open-minded and authentic.
While not the direct subject of this article, appreciative listening is also tightly aligned to Emotional Intelligence – the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions while also recognizing, understanding and influencing the emotions of others.
Since appreciative listening happens so rarely in our fast-paced world of always being connected where we communicate in short bursts of information (texts, tweets, etc.) needing to share thoughts, ideas and even pictures of our dinner, if you effectively listen with appreciation, you may surprise yourself and the other person.
While this seems like common sense and sounds easy, the actual execution is more difficult and takes time to build into your persona, but you can take minor steps each day and in every conversation. Eventually, you will become a more appreciative listener. Here are a few thoughts:
- It should go without saying but disconnect from technology. You obviously won’t be able to truly listen with appreciation if you are checking text messages or emails during the conversation.
- On a personal level, leave your phone in the car while out to dinner.
- At a professional level, close your laptop and leave your phone in your pocket.
- Assess how you participate in your next conversation right after it is over. Did you listen with an appreciation or still compile your response before the other person was done? Write your thoughts down and reread later. How could you have done better?
- During the next conversation, be mindful of how you are listening. Quiet your thoughts. If you feel yourself stepping away from being an appreciative listener, catch it and bring yourself back. It’s kind of like meditation when you let go of thoughts coming into your mind. Don’t punish yourself, just recognize it and let it go.
- Ask for feedback from the other person. Ask them if they felt like you were attentive in the conversation and if they felt like your responses considered their perspectives.
Listen with appreciation and see how it makes you feel and improves your overall communications.