The key to authentic communication is listening. Listening effectively requires . . .
A desire to truly understand the other person; empathy
The capacity to maintain close attention to what the other person is communicating
The ability to attend to nonverbal as well as verbal messages
The ability to maintain psychological neutrality , or to suspend judgment
Empathy involves the desire and ability not only to understand what the other person is saying, but to relate to the emotional content of the other person’s communications
One need not have had experiences in common with another person to empathize; but, one has had to have had similar feelings or emotional reactions as the other person
The effective listener must be able to give the other person full and undivided attention
If full and undivided attention is not possible, listening is not possible, and communication will be inauthentic as a result
If full and undivided attention is not possible, a better time for communication should be found, with the understanding that truly authentic communication may then be compromised
Listening: Nonverbal Communication
Research has shown that nonverbal communication is equally as important – and probably more important – than the verbal content of messages
The listener must remain alert to nonverbal cues that lie at the heart of human communication
Nonverbal messages may not always reflect the spoken content of messages
Understanding nonverbal messages accurately may require verbal inquiries: “I know you are saying you have forgiven Jim, but your teeth and hands are clenched, and I wonder if your forgiveness has limits.”
Listening: Psychological Neutrality
Communication between people often fails when the listener comes to some judgment about the other person’s messages, thereby compromising empathy
The listener’s judgments expressed verbally or nonverbally may intrude upon the listening process, leading to inauthentic communication
The listener must be alert to his or her own values, biases, attitudes and predispositions as they arise, being careful to maintain an open and accepting stance with respect to the other person
Responding to another person’s message is possible only with accurate listening, and involves . . .
The use of supportive statements & gestures
Statements that reflect the informational and emotional content of the speaker’s messages
Occasional “I-Messages” that embody the listener’s perspectives and feelings
Responding: Supportive Statements & Gestures
Supportive statements sustain communication, and include those such as, “Yes, I see . . . ,” “Please continue . . . ,” “And then you said . . . ,” etc.
Supportive gestures include making eye contact, maintaining an “open” body posture, smiling, signaling interest, leaning towards the speaker, etc.
The listener must refrain from expressing his or her personal opinions, perspectives, judgments, etc.