peoplehood

March 29, 2021

How to Really Listen

Too often in conversation, we become so fixated on what we have to say that we forget to focus on what another person is actually trying to tell us. Instead of really listening, we get stuck cycling through thoughts like:

 

1. AM I RIGHT? AMIRITE???

2. CAN YOU TALK QUICKER SO WE CAN GET TO WHAT I HAVE TO SAY?!

And of course, if there’s conflict or an argument...

3. DID I WIN?

 

One of the most important things we can learn is how to listen and get someone else’s world. Luckily, we’ve got some tools to help you practice your listening skills. Let’s talk about mirroring, or what we call The Playback

What Is The Playback?

Playing it back is a way to give your conversational partner your undivided attention. It’s also a way to let go of your own opinions and ideas that can prevent you from really taking in what another person is saying. When we “play it back,” we show someone that we are interested in what they have to say, and that we’ve heard and understood them.

 

How Does The Playback Work?

Each Playback conversation involves two people: a sharer (who initiates the conversation and shares what’s on their mind) and a listener (who actively listens to and validates the sharer). The key to this practice is for the listener to replay or repeat what the sharer says in their own words: what they actually said — not an interpretation of what they meant.

 

This provides space for the sharer to speak their mind, without being interrupted, judged, or misinterpreted. The safer we feel in conversation, the deeper the connection between us.

Ok, But What Do I Get Out of It?

Sharing in this context allows you to open up in an intentionally safe space. It’s a chance to speak your mind and feel heard; it’s also an opportunity to really hear yourself. Sometimes, we start a conversation about one thing, only to realize halfway through that the heart of the issue is something else — something deeper. You may or may not have a major revelation, but you’ll definitely learn something about yourself.

 

Listening helps you to set your own opinions aside and see things from a different point of view. When we open our minds to another person’s perspective, we can truly empathize and begin to change our relational dynamics for the better.

 

Validation is a basic human need that most people don’t get enough of. If you’ve ever shared something and felt compelled to ask, Does that make sense?, this step will give you peace of mind. From the listener’s perspective, validating the sharer is an opportunity to dive in and really get someone else’s world.

1. The sharer invites the listener to join them in a Playback conversation. This is much less formal than it sounds! To start, the sharer asks a conversation partner for their availability, and specifically states what they want to discuss. This step acts as a reminder to consider and respect the time and energy of the listener, instead of jumping headfirst into conversation.

2. The sharer sets the tone and starts the conversation. This is the time for the sharer to say what they mean, uninterrupted and in a judgment-free zone.


3. The listener reflects what the sharer said, using the sharer’s words, and checks in along the way to make sure they haven’t missed anything. Repeat steps 2 and 3 as many times as needed to complete the conversation (usually 2-3 cycles covers everything, but this part allows for some flexibility).

4. The listener validates the sharer. There’s no requirement to resolve all conflicts or agree on everything here. This step revolves around empathy, respect, and making space for personal differences.

5. At the end of the conversation, both parties express gratitude for each other and their time spent sharing and listening.

Now it’s your turn. Remember, these conversations can be about anything, from a simple “This is what I did this weekend” to a serious heart-to-heart. The framework will enhance your connection no matter what you discuss.


Here are a few fun sharing prompts to try with your favorite people: 

  • One of my favorite memories of us is…
  • One of the most important things I’ve learned from you is… 
  • One thing I wish we talked about more is...

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