9 Tips for Compassionate Listening
Compassionate listening is one of the most treasured tools you should have in your growth and personal skill arsenal.
It is an important skill you must learn for both official and non-official use.
This skill is not for other people’s service alone, but it is a good skill that will make you more patient, compassionate, loving, and a better person.
Once you have honed this skill, you will unsurprisingly become a person that people would want to talk to and share their problems with.
However, if you haven’t been a compassionate listener let alone a good listener, then this article is right for you.
Believe me, compassionate listening is a skill you will always need to build a healthy relationship with all your friends, family members, colleagues, spouse, children, and other acquaintances.
Join me as I take you through nine great tips for compassionate listening.
1. Listen first:
One of the funniest things about listening is that you and I often assume that we are listening when that is not the case.
You might hear the sounds propagated by the speaker yet you neither absorb nor understand the words.
You might be present with the person, but you are not present in the conversation.
The first tip of compassionate learning is to actively listen to the speaker, this is a definite creative way of communicating respectfully as well.
Learn as much as you can from the conversation, absorb the meanings of the words, understand the speaker’s body language, and respond when appropriate.
However, ticking these boxes does not necessarily mean you are compassionate, it sure sets you on the active listening path which is a prerequisite for compassionate listening.
Many a time, the speaker only needs you to listen to them -that’s all they needed.
2. Take the time to listen:
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it might surprise you that you and I don’t give enough time to listen to others.
As our attention spans become shorter, our concentration on everyday tasks also suffers.
Listening, a crucial skill for the relationship with others also suffers from the degradation of attention span.
It takes time to effectively listen actively and compassionately.
The other party must feel that they have the whole time in the world to pour their minds to you. Having this in mind, you should not hurry them to share or interrupt their flow unnecessarily.
May I submit to you that, listening takes time and you must give the speaker enough time? Being patient and generous and worth your time is essential if you really want to listen compassionately.
3. See from the speaker’s angle:
This is absolutely among the terrific tips for compassionate listening.
A meaningful connection between events that appears to be unrelated and happens due to some sort of action taken by someone is likely when you listen to people talk.
If you encounter one of your friends experiencing an issue with which you are familiar, for example, depression or anxiety disorder, it will be easier for you to share their experience with empathy.
Think of a similar situation that you have experienced.
If no such experience exists, try to imagine what it would be like if it were you in their shoes and how that might feel.
Paint a picture in your mind or visualize the scene as they describe it so far: what do they see? What are they feeling? How does all this add up for them right now?
This will help you to empathize with your friend and demonstrate that you understand their situation.
Your friend will naturally feel more of a connection with you, and this is important because it will help to build trust. You can also empathize by reflecting on what you heard from your friend:
“So, when I understand that you are feeling nervous about deciding this and afraid of what other people might think of it, then I can see why that would make you feel anxious.”
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4. Don’t be afraid to ask for more information:
This is just one of the great tips for compassionate listening that everyone needs to adhere to.
Speakers will often drop hints, which indicate they’re holding back more information.
If you ask them a question that gets them rolling on their topic, even if the subtext of your inquiry is simply “I want to learn more”, they’ll typically open up and provide detailed answers.
This is the key to gaining more insights into the topic. That’s compassionate listening at its best.
5. Your body language matters, mind it:
To fully engage with a speaker, your body language must communicate that you are paying attention without being distracting.
Lean in to show that you’re listening and make eye contact with the speaker occasionally.
Don’t fidget or shift around if it makes you seem impatient or irritated—instead, focus on communicating through your body language what message about the conversation is important to get across.
Watch your tone of voice: keep it warm, friendly, and open. Don’t be critical or judgmental about anything the speaker says;
instead, show that you care about their input and want to make sure they know they’re being heard.
6. Do not be distracted:
To make the speaker feel truly captivated by your attention, you need to eliminate all distractions that might divert it. This point is one of the undeniably reliable tips for compassionate listening.
Turn off your phone so as not to be tempted in any way by its presence. Or if you are not physically present with your partner, you could discover ways to stay connected in a long-distance relationship.
Don’t shift your eyes around the room or let them linger on other people: keep an open and accepting posture: arms uncrossed, legs relaxed but together.
7. Remain calm throughout the conversation:
It can be difficult to respond calmly when a speaker is sharing intense, emotional, or upsetting information.
You may feel the need to express your shock, disagreement, or defensiveness. Don’t!
A compassionate listener demonstrates that he/she understands what the other person has said and is following along by repeating it back in her own words.
If you’re not calm or unable to actively listen, postpone the conversation until you can do so.
8. It is not always about providing solutions:
Remember that it’s not your job to everyone’s problems.
Instead, just listen, nod, and make a few small comments that show you heard what they said but don’t interrupt the process as they work their way towards a solution themselves.
If you wait for a moment, the other person will come to their conclusion.
If they ask you directly for advice or resolution, don’t give it immediately. Instead, say something like “If I were in your shoes… what would be my best course of action?
9. Silence, sometimes, gets the job done:
Let the speaker use his or her timing to break a long silence, and resist offering your ideas.
When you respect their need for silence by not interrupting them, they feel safe in expressing themselves and gain clarity on what they want to say next.
Being silent and listening attentively to another can be difficult but it is truly a gift to just be present and allow the speaker freedom when speaking.
After you have listened and spent enough time allowing the speaker to vent, they will likely come up with their conclusion or solution or at least feel surer of themselves than they did before.
When the emotional intensity has passed and you’ve heard everything that needs to be said, then it might be a good time for you to offer some compassionate suggestions.