I finished my graduate program well over 20 years ago. The very first class I took is the one that still resonates most clearly today. It was called “The Helping Relationship” The entire semester was a deep dive into how we listen to and validate others. First and foremost there is eye contact. Arguably this is somewhat of a lost art among our culture today as many of us find ourselves talking to someone who is looking at their phone! I have found that often what others want is to simply feel heard. If I try to hard to think of what response to give or what solution to offer then I have failed the other person because I have stopped listening. Things such as tone of voice and body posture are equally important. Asking questions that show a desire to understand at a deeper level help to set the stage for validation. Validation occurs by responding in a way that is neither condescending or judgemental. Validation is not stating to the other person “I know how you feel” it is instead a process of reflecting back to the other our understanding that something must be scary, or sad, or difficult for them. Our questions need to reflect our belief that the other person is truly the best expert of themselves.
In one of my earlier posts I talked about the importance of being present in the here and now. I cannot emphasize enough how this relates to the art of listening. How we help is as important as the fact that we helped at all.
Try to make one small change today. Be mindful of how you really listen to another person. How focused and present can you be?
Hint…. It takes more practice than you think!