The Importance of Listening and Communicating
Listening Helps Untangle Emotional Knots
When growing up, we learn speaking, reading and writing techniques, but overlook listening skills. Many academics recently conducted research on listening, and their findings affirm its importance. Educators are also advocating that teaching listening skills should be part of schools’ curriculum. Some say that listening skills pave the way to success and is a useful skill applicable in the workplace, particularly in management and sales. Listening is also believed to promote quality family relations, improve communications and establish trust. To those who are emotionally distressed, a good listener provides solace and helps relieve their emotional pain.
Learn to Listen Well
Let me share a personal experience: My husband years ago suggested that I enrolled in the counselling programme at the well-known University from which he graduated. As the course had very stringent requirements, I felt that it would be challenging for me, however I proceeded with the enrolment. My husband, later on, mentioned that he thought I was blaming him for that suggestion for an entire year. The truth is, I was struggling to do well in the course and thus often appeared anxious. Despite both of us are trained in counselling, such a misunderstanding still exist between us. Hence, learning to communicate and listen well is a lifelong process, and listening to one’s true feelings and thoughts is very important!
To communicate effectively, we must first have good listening skills:
- Learn to listen attentively
- Avoid giving subjective opinions. During my course, we had an experiential practice: While working in pairs, one of us had 2 minutes to describe a special event in her/ his life, and our partner would narrate the spoken contents within 1 minute. Our coach’s only requirement was for the narrator to repeat what she or he heard, without adding any opinions. More than half of us failed in our first narration. This outcome clearly showed that many of us were habitually used to adding our own views and thoughts while listening to others.
- Clear your mind. Consider practising mindfulness or meditation to help maintain a clear mind.
- Set aside quality time. We can make time after work during which family members put aside their mobile phones to have a conversation and to listen to one another.
“I am willing to listen” Alleviates Depressed Mood
Some individuals would repeatedly talk about the same event or issue over and over. The speakers may repeat themselves frequently because they feel that no one is listening to them, or that their views are quickly disregarded or disputed. As a result, they feel aggrieved for not getting a response and think that there is no point in speaking to others. Also, some believe that repeating themselves is more likely to illicit a response. On the other hand, listeners fail to attentively listen for the true meaning of the speakers because they react too quickly and keep on providing opinions and solutions. Their responses thus make the speaker feels unheard. When bitter emotions are not addressed or managed, those who feel aggrieved will be at risk of falling into depression. Good listeners are therefore a valuable source of help to individuals suffering from emotional issues, such as experiencing depressed moods or anxiety. Their active listening alleviates sufferers’ negative emotions and prevents against further mood deterioration.
Individuals with depressed mood, often tell others that they have unhappy looping thoughts that would not go away and are unbearable. Listeners typically will respond with phrases such as “It’s ok! Be more optimistic! Don’t think too much”. As a listener, perhaps we can respond in this manner: ” You have been having these frequent thoughts throughout the day, do tell me more about them!”. Just the phrase “tell me more about them” hints to the speaker that “I am willing to listen more”. While listening, repeat some of the speaker’s words, such as ” It must be unbearable”. The repetition of their words helps the speaker feels calmer as it indicates that “I heard you”, thus making the speaker feel that she or he has received an appropriate response. In repeating some of the speaker’s words, the listener does also give the message that “I am here in walking the path with you”. This helps the speaker comfortably venting her/ his emotions, thus serving to reduce the speaker’s negative thoughts.
The power of listening lies not in our ears but in our hearts.
Tips for Listening to Family and Friends Who Are Depressed:
- The purpose of listening is to listen to the speaker’s true feelings and thoughts; it is not about attempting to change her or him
- Find a space with privacy, do not rush into talking, attentively watching the person in silence is also an act of keeping company
- Give simple responses to what they say, such as “Yes”, “I see”, to show your understanding, avoid giving advice
- Be interested in what they talk about
- Listening enables emotional and heartfelt communication; it is also a way for depressed individuals to relieve stresses
(As each depressed individual’s experience is unique, it is thus best to consult a professional on how to improve our listening skills to help her or him)