Listeners Blog

Tag Archives: Building Trust


Create a listening space

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This might not come as a surprise, but research continues to prove that multitasking really isn’t very efficient.

In fact, the most recent study, from the University of Utah, found that the people who thought they were the best at multitasking were more likely to be those who were most easily distracted by interruptions. Previous studies have also shown that the human brain doesn’t switch gears very rapidly; it also doesn’t retain information received from multiple sources simultaneously very well.

When it comes to actually accomplishing tasks, focused individuals — those who don’t respond immediately to every email ding or pop-up message or bright, shiny object— actually get more done.

The same is true when it comes to listening. If you really want to hear what someone is saying, you need to clear a space, not only in your day but also in your mind. Truly meaningful conversations can only take place where there are no interruptions, no distractions. That allows you the freedom to concentrate completely on what the other person is saying. Then you can truly hear and support that person as he or she talks through important issues.

Creating an interruption-free zone for a conversation shows that you are sincerely interested in what the speaker has to say, and there is nothing more important in that moment to you than hearing it. That alone can help build the kind of trust needed to begin a conversational journey to an inner truth.



When you have confided in someone, were you ever hurt or disappointed by his or her response?

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Forgiveness gives you back the laughter and the lightness in your life. — Joan Lunden

When we feel we have not been heard, especially if we have tried to talk to someone about our true inner feelings, we can feel frustrated. Sometimes that frustration can develop into anger or resentment directed at those who we think haven’t taken the time to really listen. We wonder if they really care about us at all.

The best cure for those hurt feelings is to find someone who will truly hear us, a supportive listener who will help us talk through our vital issues.

But there is another step that only we can take on our journey to understanding. We must be willing to forgive, to get over the anger and resentment, to let go of the hurt. This may take a fundamental shift in perspective, but it’s worth the effort.

Think about when you felt that someone was not truly listening – maybe it seemed like they were more interested in giving advice than support. Did you catch them at a bad time, when they couldn’t give you the time you needed to fully express yourself? Maybe they thought you were looking for an immediate answer rather than a deeper conversation.

Or maybe they didn’t hear what you were really saying because you weren’t really listening to them. Few of us open important conversations about our feelings directly. If both parties to a conversation don’t start out on the same page, it takes only a few missed verbal cues on either side for the whole effort to end in confusion, misunderstanding and perhaps hurt feelings.

A good listener always asks questions to be sure he or she is understanding what the speaker is saying – both the meaning and the intent. Then the conversation can unfold fully and naturally, and no one will go away unhappy.



A piece of advice: keep it to yourself

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We’ve mentioned several times here that giving advice is not the same as truly listening. What’s so wrong about trying to help people solve their problems? Let us count the ways that giving advice interferes with listening.

First of all, while you are busy thinking up a solution, you stop hearing the rest of the story. You may think you know what is troubling someone based on a few minutes of conversation, but few people launch into the real issue right away. They tend to talk around what’s really going on at first. Supportive listeners give speakers the time and space to uncover their true concerns by putting them into words.

Second, any advice can only come from your own experience. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Just because you think you know what you would do or feel or think about a situation doesn’t mean that would work for anyone else. It’s up to each of us to determine what is right for ourselves, and supportive listeners can be there while we search for our personal truth.

Third, if your advice is rejected, emotion is injected into the conversation. You can feel hurt, since you were only trying to help, after all. The speaker can feel angry, because you obviously didn’t understand what they were really trying to say, or guilty, because they know they won’t – or can’t — take your well-meaning directions. Advice can as often as not lead to arguments, or worse, a total end to talking about anything. Supportive listeners keep the conversation going by keeping their own emotions out of the equation, letting speakers explore their own feelings freely.

The temptation to fix other people’s problems is powerful. Resisting it can be powerfully rewarding, for both the speaker and the listener.