Learning to Listen and Connecting Deeply with Others
Once upon a time, I thought that fluent English and knowing some fancy words is the only way to improve communication. So I gave it a try and I learned that the word “Asthma” is not pronounced “As-tha-ma” but “Az-ma”. You won’t believe that after knowing this all the girls started liking me, my salary doubled and Narendra Modi Ji specially invited me to translate his speech into English.
Kidding 😁, Nothing Changed! Even after learning all the fancy words and the right pronunciation, all my problems related to communication stayed the same. Until I found a framework of communication that changed everything and I never looked at communication in the same way.
Suppose you are having an argument with someone about the “roundness of earth” and you are trying to make them believe that the earth is round. But the other person is convinced that the earth is flat. Now, what will you do at that point?
Now I don’t know about you but I will put both of my hands on my head, run fast and hit it to the wall😁. This is an extreme example but if you look closely you will find that we all have done it so many times. When we are emotionally charged and it feels impossible to look at another person’s perspective.
In a fight when someone blames us, we blame back. When someone says something which does not feel true we immediately say “You are wrong”. After every sentence, the argument keeps getting intense. I had so many fights which I could have avoided(or resolved sooner) if I was aware of this little thing.
In any argument there are two truths of two people and you have to hold both of them in your heart.
This little quote makes it look very easy but in practice, it is really hard to hold two truths at the same time. The big question is that how can we do this? Because when we are arguing, our emotions are very charged, it seems impossible to control them. We feel quite defensive and the natural tendency is to fight or flight(leave the conversation).
Suppose there is a jug that is full of water and you pour one more glass into it. What will happen? It will spill. So when you are feeling charged by emotions take a moment to step back and see what is going on inside you. It is a 4 step process.
- Make Observations: Observation is something that you can see. For example, my teeth are clutched, my heart is beating fast.
- Observe Feelings: Try to observe your feelings. It can be either positive(joyful, excited, calm) or negative(angry, sad, lonely).
- Observe Needs: Observe needs that are connected with your emotions. For example, if you are feeling lonely there is an underlying need to connect.
- Make a Request: If you can fulfill the need that you have identified. Great! If you can’t fulfill it then you can request yourself that “Hey anger! I see you are there and you want to protect me.” Try acknowledging all those feelings and accepting them.
A very strange thing happens when you start giving those feeling a little bit of space inside you. They soften up.
Every feeling is trying to serve us in some way. Anger wants to protect us, loneliness want to keep us in the group(so we stay safe).
Empathy for Others
1. Listen with Complete Presence:
When someone is talking, try giving them your full presence. Also, try to let go of the need to come with a response. So many times even before another person has finished talking, we are thinking of our response. In complete silence, try to listen to what the other person is saying to you.
2. Summarize When they Stop:
When they take pause, it’s your opportunity to make them feel heard. Try summarizing what they said in 1 or 2 lines. It shows them that you are listening with curiosity and are fully present in the conversation.
3. Observe their Feelings and Needs:
When someone is talking and saying something, Just like you they also have feelings and needs behind what they are saying. Try sensing them and ask them in form of questions.
“You felt angry because you wanted to feel heard?”
“It must have felt lonely.”
If this is the exact need then they will agree otherwise they will express what they are feeling. Stay patient and try listening to all their need and acknowledge them.
4. Avoid Advice:
I love this quote about advice.
Good advice is only good if another person needs it.
Many times people just want that someone will listen to them. Their feelings and needs just need acknowledgment. So when you advise even when they don’t ask for it, the other person does not feel heard.
Try listening to them first, and when they are done. You can ask them, Can I give you some of my thoughts or advice about this?
If you liked this article and want to learn more about empathy and how it can be used in conversations. You can read this book called “Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg”. It was given to me by one of my colleagues Kriti. She is an NVC practitioner and taught me a lot of things about empathy and NVC.
We have learned about how we can improve our communication skills and how empathy can be a really useful tool to connect with others and ourselves.
If you found this article useful do share it with your family and friends.
Until next week, Take Care!