7 Steps to Active & Compassionate Listening

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1. Put your damn phone away: Nobody wants to have a relationship with your phone. They have their own phone and they’re being vulnerable by connecting with you rather than looking at it.

2. Lean in. Body language means a lot. Get comfortable so you can truly hear what the other person is saying.

3. Pause your rushing thoughts: We’re constantly judging everything around us. Our days are full of likes and dislikes, Yes’s and No’s, Yucks & Yums. But when someone is sitting in front of you, pouring out their story, it’s not the time to be judging everything they say. Try to stay clear and open while they talk to you.

Of course, you’re probably going to be connecting dots (thoughts like “she always does this, I think it’s a pattern” will likely come up), but do your best to take note of those thoughts and reserve them for later…when you’re actually asked for advice.

4. Don’t interrupt. This one might seem obvious, but it’s a challenge for some people—especially those that grew up with with encouragement to speak rather than listen. (Hint: this often correlates with how much privilege you were born into and brought up with.) Interrupting for reasons other than clarification might be well intentioned, but it conveys something else entirely:

You’re too busy judging to really be listening.
You believe that what you have to say is more important—even if it’s a witty joke.
You’re trying to fix the person who’s speaking.

When you interrupt, you’re making it about YOU and not about THEM. Plus, when you interrupt, you’re just plain being rude. And rudeness? It’s not sexy.

5. Don’t give advice unless asked. Not everyone knows how to ask for support without advice attached, but it’s often what’s needed.

6. If you intuit that advice is wanted…ask if the advice is, indeed, wanted.

7. Before you give advice, repeat back the gist, i.e. “What I hear you saying is that you’re still grieving” to make sure you’ve listened well. Sometimes, you’ll be corrected and other times…the speaker will realize something insightful just by hearing you echo back to them what they’ve said.

Listening is magical like that.