“Listeners make better lovers,” says the old commercial. What, it’s not listeners, but milk drinkers?Well, if you don’t like milk or have an allergy to it, there’s still hope for you to become a better lover or friend: by learning to listen from your heart. Here are seven ways to do that:
1. The eyes have it. When we look into a person’s eyes as they talk, rather than staring out the window or planning our next meal, we show them respect. We also gain more insight into their thoughts and feelings. We can uncover pain or disappointment. We can discover joy. This type of active concern leads to deeper levels of understanding between us.
2. Ask questions. We endear ourselves to others by asking questions regarding their interests. I’m not the movie buff that my husband, Kevin, is. But if I ask, “how many Frank Capra films was Jimmie Stewart in?” Kevin comes alive. He’s convinced I care about him because I want to learn his hobbies. In the same way, if Kev asks, “How’s your article coming along?” I’m assured of his interest in me as a writer, not merely his wife.
3. Body language shouts. Leaning forward, raising our eyebrows, nodding, and smiling are excellent ways to listen from our hearts. Folding our arms, rolling our eyes, and cleaning out our make-up drawers or tool chests while someone is trying to talk to us shouts, “who cares?”
4. Can the rude ‘tude. You probably know people who own first-place trophies from the W.F.I. (World Federation of Interrupters). They’re about as much fun to be around as cats fighting at midnight. We make a friend’s day when we wait for them to finish before we speak. One of my favorite preachers says, “I already know everything I know.” If we wait our turn to speak, we might learn something we didn’t know.
5. Don’t change the subject. If you are creative or impatient, your brain makes a three-ring circus look dull. Some people have a difficult time jumping from one topic to another with no time in between. Make sure your friend is finished with the subject at hand before rushing into a new topic.
6. Hit the pause button. Make sure the other person is finished talking by leaving a pause of three to five seconds before you speak. Some individuals need more time to process thoughts. If you jump in the second they seem to be done talking, you might miss something important.
7. Mirror, mirror. We prove our interest by reflecting back what we think we heard. “So, you aren’t saying that people who prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate are idiots—just that it’s a matter of taste?” tells Kevin I was listening with my heart, and wanted to understand his point of view.
One of my favorite TV personalities, Fred Rogers, sang a song called, “There are many ways to say I love you.” Listening with your heart is one of those ways.
Which is your favorite way to listen with your heart? Who is the best listener you know?