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Are you listening?

Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Posts: 3,091

Scope community team

Today is the 27th National Day of Listening, and while listening is something we advocate for any time of year, today has a specific intention. Celebrated on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the day was launched by  StoryCorps, a Not For Profit Organization whose mission is to provide people with an opportunity to tell, record and preserve the stories of their lives.

A marvellous alternative to the frantic event that is Black Friday, the National Day of Listening was organized to take place on this day as it is often a time that families are together.

Why is listening important?

Well, aside from the fact that it's generally good manners, listening is a skill.  It is key to all effective communication and without the ability to listen effectively, messages are easily misunderstood. As a result, communication breaks down and the sender of the message can easily become frustrated or irritated.
Not only is good listening important for effective communication, but it can also help in the following areas:
  • decision making
  • learning, mentoring and teaching
  • improving a person's social life and circle of friends
  • general health and wellbeing - Studies have shown that, whereas speaking raises blood pressure, attentive listening can bring it down.
And the great thing is that listening is one of the most easily transferable skills. Not only will it benefit your personal life, but it will benefit your working life too, such as in the following areas:
  • sales and negotiation
  • interviewing
  • training and development
  • customer service
  • listening to complaints
two men talking and listening to one another

What is active listening?

Think about how you define the word listening, and the word hearing. When it comes down to it they are two different things. Your body naturally hears sounds, but it requires mental action to listen for understanding. Taking it a step further, you can listen passively without attention, or you can listen actively, which is the basis of relationship-building. There’s a big difference between active vs. passive listening.
Active listening is a soft skill that directs the focus from what’s in your head to the words coming from the outside. By being able to focus on what another person is saying, you can understand needs and information more accurately.
 It requires the following:
  • no interrupting
  • summarisation
  • picking up on body language
  • repeating back what you hear
Active listening helps with picking up on the small and big points of whatever you are hearing, and will aid in formulating a better response to another person during communication, and because of this it's a great skill to have for learning and problem solving purposes.

Listening when someone needs to be heard

Listening is a hugely powerful skill when it comes to helping others, and sometimes people just need to be listened to. Often, it can feel hard to be heard, either because you might find opening up about your feelings difficult or because people don't seem to want to listen.
For those struggling with their mental health, being listened to is priceless, it can be one of the first steps towards recovery and it can be very much needed in the hardest moments to help calm, reassure and heal somebody.
A key skill needed in these moments is empathetic listening, which is about really understanding the person who’s talking to you. That means it goes beyond active listening and deep into the zone of non-judging and empathy.
Non-judgment while you listen to others means you can truly hear them with an open mind. Empathy refers to emotionally connecting with another person through identification, compassion, understanding, feeling, and insight. Empathetic listening is needed most when someone needs to be seen and heard, and are not particularly coming to you for a solution.

Are you listening? 

I'd be keen to hear from you: 
  • Do you feel as though people listen enough? 
  • Do you practice any of these listening techniques?
  • Do you consider yourself a good listener?

If you want to be heard, have anything to say at all or need support, you will always be heard on this community :) 
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  • 66Mustang66Mustang Member Posts: 4,622 Disability Gamechanger
    Nice thread :) and I agree with what is stated here.

    An issue I think exists, and that I have come across myself, is that even if people are able to listen and repeat back what has been said,  often they don’t properly digest what has been said to them and don’t actually think about and understand the meaning of what has been said.

    I think being able to interpret what has been said is just as important as knowing what words have been said. As a very simple example if someone said something to me in Russian I could probably repeat it back but that does not mean I have any idea what they meant!
  • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Posts: 3,091

    Scope community team

    Absolutely @66Mustang, taking the words on board is one thing, but taking the time to consider their meaning is another thing completely. 

    There are so many aspects to think about when listening to somebody, of course you might just be there for support, but in a situation where you are expected to respond, it's always important to consider tone and context as well as the words themselves.
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  • Rebecca7Rebecca7 Member Posts: 16 Listener
    I am trying to learn to be a better listener. I find concentration challenging and I struggle to cope if the other person is angry or aggressive sounding.
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 1,651 Listener
    I need to learn to listen more as well.

    It's just that IMO some people don't listen to me, like on the phone and that, which is partly why I hate talking to most call centres, especially non UK ones.

  • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Posts: 3,091

    Scope community team

    I think many people would struggle if somebody was like that @Rebecca7, it's never nice to experience. I hope you do manage to become a better listener, I think sometimes it's worth just consciously talking less when in an interaction with somebody, and just focusing on what they have to say. It's interesting what you can learn about people.

    That's fair @MrAllen1976, nobody likes talking to call centres :D 
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  • WestHam06WestHam06 Member, Scope Volunteer Posts: 1,252 Pioneering
    Hi @Ross_Scope
                                  Thank you so much for starting this thread, listening is so important and there are so many elements to it. I studied for Level 2 and 3 in Counselling skills and listening was a key focus in both of these. I decided to study for these due to my own experience of having difficulty in opening up and expressing my emotions. I think sometimes when people engage in social interactions many people are focusing on what their response will be rather than really hearing what the other person is saying. Listening is a crucial skill but I think it is one that may become harder to come across, though that is just my opinion. As you say, being listened too in a non-judgemental way, with empathy, can often make the difference to someone. Thank you.
  • janer1967janer1967 Member Posts: 9,083 Disability Gamechanger
    i tend to be as good listener in most situations after spending years as a HR Manager listening to the problems of both colleagues and manager and the company. I agree though that you are often thinking of your response than what the person continues to say.

    I must admit I am bad though of sometimes carrying on with the task I am doing rather than putting it to one side to listen properly 
  • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Posts: 3,091

    Scope community team

    Very true @janer1967 and @WestHam06, people do often carry on with what they are doing instead of stopping to listen, and I can be guilty of that sometimes. Especially when you're in the zone of whatever you're doing.

    I think it's important to recognise sometimes that there is the time in the day to just stop and give somebody the attention they deserve, they might really need it.

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  • Rebecca7Rebecca7 Member Posts: 16 Listener
    I am trying to learn how to avoid speaking with people when I don't have enough concentration to listen to them properly.
  • newbornnewborn Member Posts: 680 Pioneering
    Those who have been crushed all their lives are often good listeners for all the wrong reasons.  They want to please, they naturally put themselves as of no importance, and other people like it, but then realise they don't know much about the good listener, who has learned to be good at turning the attention back to anyone but themselves.  Next, the person who is a good listener gets taken at their own valuation, since they think themselves unimportant, they risk being despised  
  • Rebecca7Rebecca7 Member Posts: 16 Listener
    @newborn - I have a family member who is a bit like that. What do you think is the best way to encourage her?
  • newbornnewborn Member Posts: 680 Pioneering
    You will know how to tailor it to her own situation, but there is now online information on equality in relationships and mutual respect.  One source of free videos is the oddly named 'crappychildhood fairy' Anna Runkle (Runkel?).  She had inadequate parents (drunk?)  and had a mix of healthy useful methods, of dealing with the world, and some the opposite.    She concluded 'treatment was harming her.

    The evidence from various places such as the figures for the 9/11 'counselled vs non counselled' and many others  have resulted in the same conclusion, i.e.  that the counselling and therapy industry are fine for some, but bad for others.    Her site also has paid for stuff, but with a bit of a struggle you can get her most popular videos and some of them would probably ring bells with your relative.

    There are straightforward self assertion guides as well, but your relative might not find them appropriate, because they assume an equality of status and no power imbalance or habit of placating  .
  • Rebecca7Rebecca7 Member Posts: 16 Listener
    @newborn - Thank you. I have been trying to make sure I ask her opinion about things and not wait for her to tell me. I realised a few years ago that she didn't seem to think that her opinion is valid, so she just would stay silent most of the time. Since I've been asking her more questions, she is a bit more chatty.
  • newbornnewborn Member Posts: 680 Pioneering
    Well done you. She is lucky to have you
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