Tips for effective listening
If your goal is to fully understand and connect with the other person, listening effectively will often come naturally. If it doesn’t, you can remember the following tips. The more you practice them, the more satisfying and rewarding your interactions with others will become.
Focus fully on the speaker, his or her body language, and other nonverbal cues. If you’re daydreaming, checking text messages, or doodling, you’re almost certain to miss nonverbal cues in the conversation. If you find it hard to concentrate on some speakers, try repeating their words over in your head—it’ll reinforce their message and help you stay focused.
Avoid interrupting or trying to redirect the conversation to your concerns, by saying something like, “If you think that’s bad, let me tell you what happened to me.” Listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to talk. You can’t concentrate on what someone’s saying if you’re forming what you’re going to say next. Often, the speaker can read your facial expressions and know that your mind’s elsewhere.
Avoid seeming judgmental. In order to communicate effectively with someone, you don’t have to like them or agree with their ideas, values, or opinions. However, you do need to set aside your judgment and withhold blame and criticism in order to fully understand a person. The most difficult communication, when successfully executed, can lead to the most unlikely and profound connection with someone.
Show your interest in what’s being said. Nod occasionally, smile at the person, and make sure your posture is open and inviting. Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes” or “uh huh.”"
In his talk, Bohm often returns to the challenge in dialogue of simply allowing multiple points of view to be. Our habits are so strong to defend our view, to agree with views that correspond with our own, and to disagree with those that differ, that simply allowing diverse views to stand can be almost impossibly difficult. “The thing that mostly gets in the way of dialogue”, he says, “is holding to assumptions and opinions, and defending them.” This instinct to judge and defend, embedded in the self-defense mechanisms of our biological heritage, is the source of incoherence.
Our personal meaning starts to become incoherent when it becomes fixed. The incoherence increases when past meaning is imposed on present situations. As this continues, yesterday’s meaning becomes today’s dogma, often losing much of it’s original meaning in the process. When this happens collectively, societies become governed by shadows, hollowed out myths from the past applied as inviolate thruths for the present. This leads to incoherence on a large scale, patterns of thinking and acting that separate people from one other and from the larger reality in which they are attempting to live."
— Peter M. Senge (Preface for David Bohm’s essay On Dialoque)