“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Communication—particularly loving communication—is a two-way street, the second means of setting the stage for it is active listening.

Listening is much more than just sitting still and looking at the other person. Following are three keys listen actively.

1. Always keep your attention on the speaker. Maintain eye contact and refrain from checking your watch, fidgeting, or showing impatience in any way. Studies show that the majority of communication is nonverbal, that is, expressed through facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc. So, use your body language to show you are paying attention— lean forward, make sure your arms and legs are uncrossed, and nod occasionally.

2. Mirror for Rapport. Listen for the important points and, when appropriate, mirror back what the speaker has said by restating or paraphrasing what you have heard. Use statements such as “So, I’m hearing you say that . . .” or “Am I correct in understanding that you want . . . ?” Doing so not only shows you understand but also keeps you from making erroneous assumptions.

3. Avoid breaking rapport. Part of active listening is making efforts to avoid breaking rapport. One way to do so is to wait for the other person to finish speaking before you start to think about your response. Another is to avoid trying to dictate what the other person should feel or do. Statements beginning with “You should . . .” or “You must . . . ” are instant rapport breakers. Do not give advice unless you are asked to, and even then, it is best to respond by saying “What do you feel you should do?” or “What would make you most comfortable?”

“Please Listen”
—a Poem by a Survivor

When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving advice, you have not done what I asked.
When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings. When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problems, you have failed me, strange as that may seem.
Perhaps that’s why prayer works for some people.
Because God is mute and He doesn’t offer advice or try to fix things.
He just listens and trusts you to work it out for yourself.
So please, just listen and hear me. And if you want to talk, wait a few minutes for your turn and I promise I’ll listen to you. —Anonymous

Your turn
This exercise is intended to help you become aware of how you communicate, practice communicating with the mindset that everyone is right from his or her point of view and listen actively. I would like you to do this exercise for the next three days, beginning with writing the following statement in your journal or entering it in your computer. By doing so you are giving a suggestion to your subconscious to be alert and aware. Read it once at the beginning of each day.
“I will always do my best to set the stage for loving communication and create rapport. I will be aware when I feel the need to prove I’m right at the expense of making others wrong and will choose to always respect the dignity of others. I will notice when I am not proactively listening and will refocus my attention.”
If you read this every morning, as you communicate over the next three days you will become aware of exactly how you communicate, and notice not only when you are trying to be right by making others wrong, but also when you are absorbed in the self-dialogue of judgment instead of proactively listening with an open mind. And soon, almost before you realize it, you will be setting the stage for loving communication.
Imagine that!
• Communication at its best is an art.
• There are essentially three types of communication—technical communication, discussion, and dialogue—each with its own particular characteristics.
• Dialogue, the highest form of communication, is a nonjudgmental, free exchange of ideas or opinions on an issue with the purpose of reaching an amicable agreement or settlement.
• Loving communication is the result of creating rapport by recognizing that everyone is right from his or her point of view and learning to listen actively.
• Recognizing that everyone is right from his or her point of view means respecting the dignity of others even if you don’t agree with them.
• Active listening means concentrating on what is being said rather than just passively “hearing” the message of the speaker, as well as exhibiting both verbal and nonverbal signs of listening.
• Loving communication stems from the single-minded desire to experience peace.

This is an excerpt from Chapter 7, IMAGINE THAT! Igniting Your Brain for Creativity and Peak Performance by James Mapes. Greenleaf Publishing, 2016

Author's Bio: 

James Mapes is an authority on the psychology of applied imagination, leadership and peak performance. For over three decades he has worked with hundreds of public and private companies in more than 70 countries and his program, “Journey into the Imagination” has been presented on Broadway and at Lincoln Center in Manhattan.
Companies, associations, universities and business schools including – IBM Corporate, U.S. Coast Guard, Lockheed and The Princeton Center for Leadership Training – have quoted Mapes in training manuals and textbooks.
James has created an on-going series of audio recordings and award-winner interactive VIDEO programs (Create Your Future; True Leadership) for the business community. His best-selling book, “Quantum Leap Thinking: An Owners’ Guide to the Mind” has been published in ten languages.
Mapes is the founder and President of The Quantum Leap Thinking™ Organization and the creator of the Transformational Coach™.

His newest programs are “MIND OVER BODY:” “IMAGINE THAT! Igniting your Brain for Creativity and Peak Performance,” “TRUE LEADERSHIP: The Neuroscience of Effective Leaders” & “MIND OVER BODY“ Harnessing a Vison for Wellness.”