“Friends are those rare people who ask how we are, and then wait to hear the answer.” ~ Ed Cunningham
What kind of listener are you? Recently, I was forced to think about this question. So often, we roll through life without reflection, especially when it comes to communication skills. Yet, the way we communicate is an essential component of every relationship we have. When a death occurs, we naturally want to console a grieving friend or family member; however, deep listening, not talking, is often the best form of consolation we can give.
Suggested Read: What Not To Say To People Who Are Grieving
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4 Categories Of Listening
There are multiple types of listeners, and most of us fall into one of four categories. Once we recognize our style, we can start to improve our active listening skills and, more importantly, our relationships.
1. Referential Listener
I discovered that I am a referential listener. That means, I’m listening to you, but I will shape the conversation so that it becomes about me. I will tell you stories about my own suffering and experiences with losing a loved one in order to make a connection with you. The problem is that the conversation becomes all about me and nothing about you.
2. Distracted Listener
Distracted listeners are physically present for you, but not hearing you. Preoccupied by their own thoughts, they may manage to nod their head at the right time, but you can see a blankness in their eyes. As they focus on their own thoughts, the situation is once again about them.
3. Selective Listener
Selective listeners tune-out until they hear something that is interesting or pertains to them. Then, they will engage back in, but in the meantime, you are left talking to yourself.
4. Fix-It Listener
Fix-it listeners validate themselves by offering you suggestions on how to deal with loss. In this case, the listener seems like they are making it about you, but it is still about them.
Understanding Listening to Become a Deep Listener
Once we become aware of our listening style, we can work on becoming a deep listener. A deep listener gives you their full attention. They look at you, lean in, and offer you their utmost respect and regard as they listen for insight and understanding. They sincerely want to hear about your experience and connect with you. Deep listeners are non-judgemental and do not make assumptions; instead, they build trust by gently questioning and paraphrasing to clarify the meaning of your words. I think Stephen R. Covey explained it best, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
By consciously practicing deep listening, we can show up for the people who matter most during the most heartbreaking of times.
Suggested Read: What You Can Do To Support A Friend During Loss?