“A good conversation is like a mini skirt; short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject“.
What does it mean to listen? It means to let go of every thought that enters your mind when you are holding a conversation with someone. It means to ask open ended questions to allow the speaker to share more in depth knowledge and foster trust.
Letting go of your own thoughts
When your friend comes to you to tell you about how dreadful his/her day was and all you said was, “I had a bad day too,” and proceeded telling your story, thinking that you can relate to what your friend feel, you are most likely mistaken. No two experiences can be the same. Experiences, thoughts, feelings can never be similar, it is exceptionally different even when situation and context seem almost alike. To listen, you need to let go of your own thoughts. Whatever ideas or sentences that enter your mind which you are dying to share but is unrelated to what your friend has to say, let them go. To listen, you need to learn to let your thoughts go.
Ask open ended questions
The generic rule to sustain conversations is by asking basic questions, “What? When? Where? Why? How?” But when you listen, with the intention to learn something from a person, ask open ended questions. Give them time to process their thoughts and let them answer as freely and casually as they like. Asking short questions like, “Were you sad?” does not allow the speaker to share much with you. But instead, try asking, “How did you feel?” This allows the speaker to walk you through those dreadful or happy times he/she experienced. It will definitely strengthen the rapport you have with the speaker, as you will be invited to enter his/her personal emotional territory.
Understand that everyone possess a knowledge
Every person that you meet has something to offer. They possess the very knowledge that you don’t. When you listen, you might be able to learn a thing or two from these people. You will be surprised with what golden nuggets they will share with you. It can be as simple as learning how to breastfeed or as creative as how The Joker could possibly be Batman in time travel or even as serious as how to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. Every little gem of information that you receive from listening is a form of knowledge shared and gained.
Grab the next opportunity to be a listener in a conversation. If you are able to let go of your thoughts and ask related questions to understand, you won’t be disappointed because you will be in for an interesting discovery, like a mini lesson which you don’t have to pay S$45,000 for (I had to, my tuition fees).
May Allah bless you and your family, whoever you may be (: