Many of us think we’re good listeners but still engage in some of the most common blocks to listening. This can be a hard concept to grok at first because it requires us to really look at ourselves and understand our possible short comings as friends, bosses and partners. That being said once you acknowledge where you may be deficient you can start to change!
So what are we talking about here? How do we know we aren’t listening as well as we could be? Advice giving, above all is the most common type of listening block that I notice. Some others include identifying instead of empathizing, comparing, mind reading and placating. Advice giving comes from a good place, a place of wanting to help and alleviate your friends suffering. But in reality you’re not taking in what the person just told you, you’re launching into advice giving that the person probably didn’t ask for. Most people don’t even ask before they offer their solutions and it's likely that they don't fully understand the problem.
Truly listening involves asking questions, getting clarity and responding back with what you have heard to let the person know you are understanding. The truth is we already have our own answers and when someone truly listens to us, the simple act of being heard is often enough to help turn the situation around. Often that's all people really want is to simply be heard.
Awareness is the first step to change. Be aware of not only when you do this to others but when it happens to you. How do you feel? Do you feel heard? Did you ask for advice or did the person just catapult their solutions at you. I notice myself feeling extremely frustrated when I try to talk about the same problem to multiple different people and I find myself on the other end of a laundry list of questions about what I have and haven’t tried and then possible solutions. After your friend stops talking about their problem take a pause. Give them and the problem space to breathe. You will find that you become a much more effective listener and ultimately a better helper over time.