What Did You Say? Active Listening

By Tara Lehman, Copyright 2018

Active Listening is key to any relationship, whether it be between husband and wife, parent and child, boss and employee, co-worker to co-worker or any other relationship or conversation with 2 or more people.  So, what is it and why is it so important?

Active Listening is about being present in the current conversation without judgement but with true interest in what the speaking party is saying.  It is about focusing on the speaker with both your ears and saving your one mouth for the appropriate time to speak or reply.  As the great Epictetus a Philosopher once said, “We have two ears and one mouth so we may listen more and talk less.”  This is very important so that you can hear and listen to understand the speaker.  While using your mouth to reply when needed but to reply to ensure you understand before making any decisions.  For example, if I say I am going to have the report ready tomorrow, you may hear tomorrow and have a preconceived idea that means at 9am.  I may mean tomorrow before we leave for the day at 4pm.  If we don’t actively listen to understand, we have heard that the report will be ready tomorrow, but we have not fully understood what “tomorrow” actually means.  If you are actively listening, you should not be making an assumption when that will be, nor should you have thoughts about how you will respond running through your mind while they talk (if you do, refocus on what they are saying).  When they are done, use this time to confirm what time we can expect it, so you both fully understand what the speaker is trying to convey.

Active Listening, according to Mindset (Sweden), is about three things: Paying Attention, Showing that You Are Listening, and Providing Feedback.  So how do you do these things?

  • Remember you have two ears and one mouth
  • Don’t let your mind wonder while the speaker is talking. Focus on what they are saying.  If it starts to wonder, refocus.
  • While they are speaking, don’t formulate a response in your mind at the same time. This means you are not listening to what they are saying if you are thinking of a response already.  Your response should be formulated only after they are done talking
  • Do not cut the speaker off as this can be interpreted as you not really being interested in what they have to say
  • Use body language to show you are listening – i.e. nod, smile, look at them directly, don’t fiddle, don’t look at your phone, etc
  • Ensure your posture, whether sitting or standing, is open and inviting – don’t cross your arms across your chest, for example, as this is seen as a closed posture
  • Listen! Use the power of silence
  • Ask questions if you do not fully understand – remember listen to understand and reply to be understood and to clarify or summarize what you heard
  • Respond in a manner and tone you would expect from someone else
  • Look the speaker in the eyes
  • Summarize what they said how you have interpreted it to ensure you are getting their message. In the above example, perhaps ask: You mentioned you can have the report done tomorrow.  Can you tell me what time tomorrow I can expect the report?

Active Listening takes practise and does not necessary come to everyone naturally or easily.  If you are prone to cutting people off, you may need to start with recognizing you are doing this, apologize when you do and re-focus on what they are saying.   If your mind starts to wonder or go through the long list of to do’s you have, while you are talking with someone, simply let the speaker know that you missed part of what they said, apologize, ask them to repeat while you focus and practice your Active Listening.

The next time you are in a conversation remember you have two ears and one mouth and use them appropriately – listen to understand their side or their perspective, then speak so they fully understand yours.  You may not ever agree, but at least you can both appreciate the other’s point of view.

We have also created a YouTube video on Active Listening to complement this article.  You can watch it on our channel at youtube.com/twinlifecoaching.  Be sure to subscribe so you can see new videos when they are posted.

Don’t Forget To Breathe!

By Barb Chapman and Tara Lehman

Copyright 2018

Do you ever find yourself breathing quickly or even holding your breath during stressful moments?   Do you lay in bed at night with your mind and heart racing together?  Could you use a quick relaxation technique?  Don’t forget to breathe!

Everyone has moments of anxiety or stress in their lives.  Some situations can cause short term anxiety for a few minutes, where other situations may cause days, weeks or even months of high stress.  Being mindful of your physical symptoms of stress or anxiety and how it affects your body (i.e. quick or shallow breathing, anxiety attacks, seeing stars, tight or sore muscles, etc) is very important to your wellbeing.   Recognizing that your body shows physical symptoms of stress, allows you to understand that your body sometimes requires intervention to calm down.  One way of providing an immediate physical calm is deep breathing.

If you are a yoga or meditation fan, you probably already know how to do intentional deep breathing.  Just use that practise every day or during high stress moments when you just can’t calm down.  Not a yoga master?  No problem.  There is a simple approach that you can do anywhere at any time.  People may not even know you are doing it.

How do you deep breathe?  There are many ways, but here is one that may help.  Stand or sit in a position where you feel comfortable and alert, but not slouched.  If you are able and where safe, close your eyes for this exercise – this is best done in a sitting position.  Open your eyes any time you feel that you become unstable.  Put your hands on your abdomen to ensure you are breathing the breath in to your stomach and not your chest.  Breathe in slowly for a count of 3 seconds, ensuring the breath reaches your stomach – your abdomen should extend, shoulders should stay down.  Then breathe out through your mouth for 3 seconds, while doing this being always mindful in relaxing your shoulders and tense muscles.  Take a 3 second break before repeating 3-5 times.

After doing this exercise, you should feel an immediate reduction in tenseness of muscles and a reduction in the speed of your breath.  This exercise can be completed several times during the day.  Ever thought about sharing this activity with others who may feel stressed or anxious?  It may be beneficial for everyone to join in this activity.

If you feel there is any other reason for your physical symptoms or you are unsure if this exercise is for you, please seek medical advice.  This exercise is not meant to help any medical conditions, but to aid during stressful moments in time.

For a demonstration on how to do deep breathing, check out our You Tube video (don’t forget to subscribe).  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6fvKnYz18QeaSmgfCpDlBQ