5 Ways to Listen Better and Avoid a Holiday Family Meltdown During the holiday season everyone is pressed for time. Offer the under-appreciated gift of listening with these skills. BY MATTHEW DOOLEY
One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is your time and attention.
“ Go beyond just repeating or confirming what you hear by asking open-ended questions.”
Of all the gift ideas on your list this year, the one that's sure to be both appreciated and returned to you is attention. Especially during the holiday season, it's easy to get distracted by things that don't really matter. As you spend time with loved ones and cherished friends, make the most of it by being present.
It is easy to have a family meltdown and we all know family fights can get intense during the holidays when there is unresolved conflict. When family members are fighting, the root cause is that they aren’t listening. There are methods, however, to improve your listening skills.
Below are five ways to improve your listening skills this holiday:
1. Identify and remove distractions. It’s not that we lack the capacity to listen. In fact, some studies suggest we only require 25% of our brain to listen. The problem is the growing list of things that compete for our attention, and take us out of living in the moment. Put down your phone, close your laptop and free up your mind. Not only will you retain more of what you’re hearing, the conversation will have a chance to go deep below the surface.
2. Avoid the impulse to make a point or prove yourself. Even when you’re fully attentive—and especially so—it’s difficult to ease your mind and to not jump immediately to what’s next. While any dialogue involves at least two active participants, chaos (and bad feelings) will ensue if the microphone is constantly being stolen away. This usually exists because your ego gets in the way, and you want to make sure they know what you have to say. Or else, it’s the opposite and speaking up is a way for you to mask your insecurities. If you must speak up, make it about them by following the next tip.
3. Move the dialogue forward. Express genuine interest in what’s being said so that the conversation won’t fall flat. Go beyond just repeating or confirming what you hear by asking open-ended questions. Seek stories, not one-word answers. This will open up opportunities for you to tell your own stories without it feeling forced or awkward. Even if you’re unable to think up good questions on-the-spot, show you were listening by following up with a letter or an e-mail.
4. Quiet your inner voice. As you’re listening, stay focused on what’s being said and, when you feel your mind wander, take a moment to download some of the things you’re hearing. You can jot down words on a piece of paper or you can utilize other tools around you. For example, I have created the Kapture wristband that automatically records audio and allows you to save the previous 60 seconds with just a tap; and without interrupting or breaking eye contact. Whichever methods or tools you use, defer some of the processing to later so that you can remain fully present.
5. Tune-in to more than just what is said. There’s so much you can learn from someone’s non-verbal cues that really bring context and meaning to the message. Take advantage of the information you can glean from their body language and facial expressions. Play your part by leaning forward, nodding your head, and keeping eye contact.
Matthew Dooley is a Cincinnati-based entrepreneur who didn’t fully appreciate the value of listening until he met Ashley, his wife, who is a therapist. She put him to shame! Dooley has since brought a product to market that actually rewards you for paying attention. It’s called Kapture, a wristband and mobile app for reliving and sharing the last minute of anything you hear. Listen for the good stuff, tap to save the previous minute to your phone, then use the Kapture app to edit and share your unique moment. More at www.kaptureaudio.com.