Blog Short #41: How to Truly Connect with Someone: Whole Being Listening
Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday, I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you. My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!
One of the comments I often hear from people after a therapy session is that it feels good to have someone truly listen to them.
That would make sense, right? It does feel relieving to be heard by someone who seems interested and attentive to what you have to say. But, there’s more to it than that. It has to do with specific elements involved in the listening process used by the listener and the effects these have on the speaker.
Today I’m going to go through these elements and encourage you to practice this style of listening, especially with those with whom you seek a closer connection.
What It Is
This style of listening is called “whole being listening.” In short, it means listening with your whole self without inner or outer distractions.
The goal is to listen solely to understand. That means listening without judgment, preconceived ideas, fixing something, or responding.
Most of the time, we listen to respond or problem-solve. It’s natural to do that, but when it happens too early in a conversation, the speaker’s cut short and feels unheard.
Just being heard and understood is extremely important and has value in and of itself. It’s relieving, validating, and connective.
Listening with our whole being means:
- Suspending other activities or points of focus.
- Attending only on the person speaking.
- Seeing things through the speaker’s mental and emotional lens.
Here’s how to do that.
#1 Set the scene.
The first thing to do is clear the environment from distractions. Put your phone on silent and out of sight. Close your computer if it’s nearby. Turn off any background noise like loud music or TV. And if possible, find a quiet area where no one will interrupt you as you converse.
#2 Use the right body language.
Body language sends many messages during a conversation. The whole being listening works best when you follow these rules.
- Make direct eye contact. You don’t need to stare, but looking directly at someone lets them know they have your full attention. Eye contact is an intimate point of contact and connection.
- Turn your body toward the person speaking, but allow for personal space.
- Be still. Don’t fidget. When you stay still, the message you send is that you’re calm and there’s no rush. You invite the speaker to relax and talk.
- Avoid critical facial expressions or reactions. Remember, you’re listening only to understand, not critique. Maintain an expression of openness, receptivity, and attentiveness.
#3 Get in the right frame of mind.
In addition to body language, your frame of mind has a significant bearing on how well you can attend. Observe these guidelines.
- Still your thoughts. Focus directly on the speaker’s voice, actual words, and body language. Your goal is to hear what’s said, what’s felt, what’s thought, and what’s needed. Messages are multi-layered. When you listen closely and attentively, you can hear them all.
- Dispense with evaluation. Remind yourself that your goal is to understand.
- Avoid daydreaming or drifting off into other thoughts.
- Keep yourself in detective mode. Stay open, ask questions to clarify, and try to see things through the speaker’s eyes.
#4 Use this process.
The process consists of four parts. These don’t happen consecutively, but throughout depending on the flow of conversation. That’ll make sense to you as we go through them.
- Listen. Invite the speaker to begin, and listen intently with your full attention. Don’t interrupt with questions right away. Just sit back, attend, make full eye contact, and be silent.
- Clarify. After the speaker has talked and told you what’s on his mind, you can ask questions to clarify anything you don’t understand or needs elaboration. Don’t interrogate. Just ask questions to fill in any gaps to get the complete picture.
- Confirm. Repeat back what you think has been said to get confirmation. This doesn’t have to be verbatim or formal. Just a summary so that you can make sure you understand not only what’s said but also the speaker’s point of view.
- Identify the feeling/need/want. What does the speaker need you to hear? What is her intent? What does she want, and especially, what does she feel? When you get to the feeling behind the words, you’ll connect with her. She’ll feel understood.
Let’s go back a minute to that original statement I told you about that I sometimes hear after a therapy session:
“It feels good to have someone truly listen to me.”
It feels good because these three things happen:
- You feel connected. The act of truly listening to someone chases away feelings of isolation and allows an emotional connection to take place.
- You feel understood. Because the process of whole being listening is focused on understanding rather than evaluation and responding, you feel heard.
- You feel emotionally unburdened. When someone listens intently with an open mind, your emotions transfer over. That means that what you feel is felt by the listener, which provides an emotional release for you.
When you listen this way to someone, you often find that the energy changes between the two of you. It flows more easily, and there’s a relaxing – a show of greater trust and vulnerability. This is true even if you disagree with what you’re hearing.
Either way, listening fully to understand creates a connection, and that’s invaluable no matter the subject matter or the purpose of the conversation.
It’s quite powerful!
When and How to Use This
Use whole being listening liberally with your spouses, partners, children, family members, friends, and work colleagues. By doing so, you’ll establish deeper connections that create the foundation for problem-solving when needed. This type of listening creates intimacy, and as mentioned already, trust.
It’s a great thing to practice with your children. As parents, it’s easy to talk “at” our kids. It’s harder to listen to what they think and feel because we’re so focused on making sure they don’t make bad decisions or go down the wrong path. We hover.
If you spend the time to truly listen and let them say everything they want to say without a rebuttal, they’re much more likely to listen to you later when you need them to hear you. Understand first, educate and correct later.
The same goes with any intimate relationship.
A question for you today is:
“When is the last time I let my partner (child, friend, family member) say everything they wanted to say and just listened with my whole being?”
If recently, then kudos! If not, try it soon. It’ll change things between you.
That’s all for today. Have a great week!
All my best,