Sometimes it is helpful to ask the other person how he or she would like you to listen. I realized this recently when I returned from a visit with my granddaughter and called a friend to tell her all about it. I was very excited to relate all the precious things my grandchild had done while I was visiting, but I never got the chance. As soon as I said the word grandchild, my friend went off on her own stories about her grandchildren and never let me get a word in. It is not that I was not happy to hear her stories, it is just that she, like most of us, was being so I-centered she did not think about my need for her to listen.
The more important a topic is, the more important it is that you know what is expected of you as a listener. This is especially important when someone comes to you to complain or is upset or angry. You can then ask these three questions:
- Do you want me to just listen?
- Do you want me to ask questions and interact with you?
- Do you want me to give you advice?
Asking these questions forces the other person to think about what she wants you to do. It also helps you fulfill her needs from her perspective.