April 18, 2023 – (Submitted by Howard Diamond)
Can we hear each other? Are we paying attention? What can we do differently to listen? Do we listen? Do we effectively listen? Do we want to know about listening and effective listening? Do we want to know the differences between each? Too many questions. Everyone, please calm down and they might be answered. Listen and stay tuned it is coming next in this article.
Experts say, we hear everything, except those who are deaf, but what we listen to, can be the difference between night and day. Most of us pick and choose what we want to, sometimes based on several factors. We tend to listen within conversations that are more engaging or a dialogue of what we want. Other times, to people that are interesting or look marvelous. Also, we listen to individual things that our partner wants. Even then, there are occasions when our brain drifts into another thought. Before we know it, we drift from person to person, not really listening to anyone.
Often Certified Peer Specialists like myself use “Effective Listening” techniques when working with many of our peers. Not only is this a good technique for Peers, but for everyone because we all need to listen better. Listening is to give one’s attention to a sound. According to Maryville University, there are basically four types of listening techniques:
- DEEP LISTENING happens when we’re committed to understanding what the other person’s trying to say. This version helps to build trust and rapport and makes us feel comfortable with our thoughts and ideas.
- FULL LISTENING involves paying the closest attention to what the speaker is really conveying. Primarily this is used in a classroom, when someone is trying to teach us how to complete task(s) and when discussing work projects with our professors and supervisors.
- CRITICAL LISTENING incorporates systematic reasoning and careful thought to analyze a person’s talk and try to discern fact from opinion. This may occur when we have a personal agenda, such as political debates or a salesperson making a pitch.
- THERAPEUTIC LISTENING means giving our friends, colleagues or our family members time to discuss their issues. This involves applying many nonverbal cues like nodding and maintaining eye contact. Also, we need to understand what they are feeling about their experiences and their situations.
Effective listening is an active way to listen, and something we need to learn and undertake for personal growth. Continuously, we must focus our attention on the person(s) speaking along with their message. Also, we need to let the speaker know we understand what is being talked about. Some of these ways include, sustaining eye contact, when we are able to ask follow-up questions or comments, be attentive and engaged in this moment and never, never interrupt who is speaking.
The difference between listening and effective listening is that we know what we are listening for; there are cues that guide the questions we will ask. Peer Specialists and others try to help someone figure out their self-identity at the present time, what the person thinks would improve their life, and what they think is standing in the way of any or all of these goals. Self-image, goals and barriers are simple things to listen for actively.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to effectively listen. Often to try to get our own point across we tend to interrupt the other individual. This happens with advice, judgment, criticisms or comparative stories of our own, or even feeling the need to one-up the person. Effective listening means there may be moments of silence. At that instance, silence is okay.
Remember, the Peer Specialist role is to guide their peer into listening to their own inner truth with open, honest questions. These questions go by the old rules of journalism: who, what, where, when, and how…but why is never involved. Asking why can make other people defensive. However, honest, truthful questions mean that one doesn’t already know the answer. The person may feel their intelligence insulted by such questions. Be very careful, our role as a Peer Specialist is always to listen and not make the situation worse.
The next time anyone has a conversation with a friend, try using these techniques. It can be difficult but we all improve with practice! As Peer Specialists we try not to fix, save, advise, judge, or set the person straight. Instead we listen and ask honest, non-judgmental questions. It is interesting how much people really appreciate it. Are all of us listening?
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Howard Diamond is a New York State Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island.