Recently, I have been writing about the skill of reflective listening as an adjunct to bettering our communication with, and understanding of, others especially when the others may have different points of view.
Good listening is not easy. Bad news can be a heavy burden. Listening means overcoming roadblocks to effective communication and as such can often be an intense, demanding activity. However, it fosters more rewarding relationships. Plus, you get better at it with practice and it becomes a natural way of engaging with others.
When you listen in a reflective way, the other person may feel safe enough to let their guard down a little more, allowing themselves to be vulnerable.
So, it’s vitally important not to be judgemental in those moments as you may hurt the other more than if you were judgmental from the start.
So, is there a time when it is not appropriate to listen in a reflective way?
Robert Bolton in his book suggests it is not the time to listen reflectively:
- When you are not able to be accepting
- When you do not trust the other to find their own solution
- When you are not separate from the other and feel emotionally involved.
- When you use listening as a way of hiding yourself – some never disclose anything of themselves, perhaps using reflective listening as a shield
- When you feel very hassled or depleted
“I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.” – G.K. Chesterton
An important thing to remember is that the person with the problem is the best person to solve the problem. Often, we are so keen to jump in with what seems to us – a completely logical solution or suggestion. It is rarely taken on board. Robert Bolton explains why this is:
The other person has most of the data. No matter how effectively he discloses and I listen, the other will have more data on his situation than I can ever have.
The other person takes all the risks. If the solution isn’t as good as it looked on the surface, the other must suffer the consequences.
The other must implement the solution.
The other’s confidence and sense of self-responsibility are strengthened when he makes and implements his own solution. He takes a significant step towards shaping his own destiny.. and.. he becomes less dependent on others for helpRobert Bolton, People Skills
Isn’t that what we are trying to achieve?
How to better shape our own destiny?