Have you ever wondered what it is that therapists do that enables people to feel safe enough to share their deepest secrets with a stranger? What voodoo do they use to get people to open up? Well… drumroll… they L I S T E N.
In fact, one of the very first things you learn when you start training to be a counsellor, psychotherapist, or mental health practitioner is how to ‘do’ active listening. You then keep learning and relearning it on ever deeper levels with each and every client!
Of course, listening is not all a therapist does, but it’s a pretty key ingredient and one that anybody at all can learn how to do. Now you might be wondering, “Why on earth would I need to learn how to listen – I do that all the time!” And maybe you are a great listener already, although most people seem to be much better at hearing than they are at listening. I think it’s important to make a distinction between the two because not only are they very different, but they also get very different results in the world.
Hearing is mostly a passive, biological act. The way your brain makes sense of sound-waves smashing into your eardrums. Listening, on the other hand, is not really something you do with your ears, but something you do with your soul. It is an active decision, hence the term ‘active listening’. It is a choice, a skill, and something that you get better at with practice.
So why bother learning how to listen like a therapist? Because it is the best thing you will ever do for your relationships! And I mean ALL your relationships. Want to have a strong connection with your kids? Want to maintain a deep and healthy relationship with your partner? Want to get on better with coworkers? Developing deep listening skills will make a huge difference.
So… where do you start?