What On Earth’s Open-Minded Listening? (And How to Do It)
To boost your bonhomie and ditch narrow thinking, you can adopt listening with an open mind
Most of us consider ourselves wise and more fruitful when receptive rather than closed off from ideas and interests that differ from ours.
We can grab opportunities and relate to people when we accept them as ourselves.
But do we listen in an open-minded way?
If you want to boost your bonhomie and ditch narrow thinking, you can adopt listening with an open mind.
The pitfalls of being a closed-minded listener
Many of us are poor listeners. We enter conversations with plans. We expect to have our say and inspire others to agree with us; if they disagree, we argue with them and attempt to sway their opinions.
Even if you are a kind, sympathetic person who wants to be open-minded, your task is hard.
Some folks imagine everyone needs to think like them and believe what they believe. If you’re not careful, you could fall into the same trap.
Notice what you think the next time somebody disagrees with you, and you’ll be more aware of your attitude. If you’re like most people, you’ll get defensive. With raised hackles, you’ll prepare for an attack.
Maybe they’re just expressing their opinions and mean you no harm. But something within might want to burst out of your chest, alien style, and give the other person a makeover, so their views resemble yours.
It’s human nature to want people to think like us, behave like us, and be like us.
But in our attempts to make them carbon copies, we become too narrow-minded to hear them properly when they speak. So all we hear is the fact they disagree with us or we disagree with them.
When we adopt open-minded listening, we stop doing the following things:
We don’t interrupt
If you interrupt someone, the chances are you’re being narrow-minded. You want to have your say at the expense of the other person. Perhaps you desire to correct them.
To be more open-minded, hear them out until they finish what they say. Get rid of the notion you need to challenge the content of the conversation for now and listen.
Later, if you note misperceptions, you can bring them up. Let the individual speak and get what they want out into the open.
We don’t mind people disagreeing with us
Often, we don’t even realize why we want people to agree with us. Instead, we challenge their views on autopilot as if that’s just something we should do.
Give the notion some thought, though, and you may conclude it’s okay for people to think differently.
After all, what they think and do isn’t significant unless it affects you or hurts someone else. So what if somebody likes a band you hate, has differing religious views from yours, or can’t stand the political party you support?
We don’t chastise people with our thoughts as they talk
As soon as we begin judging somebody as they speak, albeit in our heads, our ability to listen to them narrows. We shut out empathy because we’ve concluded they are wrong about something.
Sometimes, we have no intention of expressing our judgment. But judging individuals quietly still makes us bad listeners.
You might think entertaining your judgments as inner narration doesn’t matter. But, while you chastise people, think about how they could do something better, or imagine they are fools, you hear what they say through a narrow hole of perception.
To widen your perceptive ability and hear people, be open-minded about what they say. Reserve judgment until you know the whole story. Instead, adopt a caring approach if you can’t help but see they’ve made mistakes.
Maybe they’ve missed an essential point about a situation, and you can see it. Recognize the individual’s suffering because of their error and let them vent and run out of steam.
Even if the person isn’t a good friend, imagine they are and feel kindness toward them and their plight. Only then will you be able to listen with an open-minded perspective.
How to be an open-minded listener
Welcome the idea you could be wrong
When someone says something that jolts you from contentment, entertain the notion you’re mistaken or, at least, could be wrong. Suspend your beliefs while they talk for a moment or two to let their words filter through to you.
Sometimes, you will have misheard or misunderstood them, and listening gives you time to correct your error.
At other times, they might point out you’re wrong about something. But if you’ve left space for that prospect by being a great listener, you will still come across as wise.
After all, you didn’t hijack the conversation with your views; you stayed quiet, which means you gained grace. You’ve space to change your mind and improve.
Step into the listener role
Not being judgmental or wanting to challenge people will be easier if you adopt the role of a listener. When somebody speaks, make it your task to hear every word they say.
Your job is to catch each utterance before turning it over like a pebble in your hand.
How do the words feel? Soft and smooth, for instance, or hard and sharp?
Once you’ve addressed the feel of their words, you know the emotion they express.
Often, people speak because they need to vent emotion, and their words aren’t eloquent or as crucial as their feelings. Catch the emotion, and you will understand what they need to convey.
Clarify what’s said
You might not always understand what people say, and it’s okay to admit it. Rather than say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” try, “please, can you repeat that using different words? I didn’t get it.”
Or, you can repeat what you thought you heard and let the individual correct you if you’ve made a mistake.
People are often so wrapped up in what they talk about that they imagine you already know more about their situation than you do, and you need to ask them questions.
At other times, they might try to describe a concept and fall short of a full explanation. So get used to getting them to open up and expand what they tell you.
Most of us think of ourselves as open-minded. But we’re narrower than we think. So to expand your listening skills, suspend judgments and refrain from challenging people straight away when they talk.
Let them have their say, and you’ll gain an advantage. Armed with added knowledge, you can better consider the situation and change your ideas if you see fit.
What’s more, your empathy, compassion, and ability to support others will grow. Also, you’ll learn more because you’re busy listening instead of butting in and stealing the conversation.
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Bridget Webber is a writer and nature lover, often found in the woodland, meadow, and other wild places. She writes poetry and stories and pens psychology articles; her love of discovering what rests inside the thicket and the brain compels her to delve deep. She’s appeared in many leading publications and ghostwrites for professionals who can’t spare the time to pen compositions.