The modern world can be a loud place. We’ve all got a lot to say, and thanks to the internet, we all have platforms to voice our opinions. This can be an amazing thing, but in the process of gaining a voice, have we lost the art of listening to one another? Have we become too focused on getting heard and having our say? The reality is, when we engage in a conversation with someone else, many of us come to these conversations with certain agendas. Whether that is to make ourselves be heard, to make ourselves not be heard, or to actually escape the conversation altogether. Knowingly or unknowing we tend to form preconceived objectives surrounding the conversation.

So how can we improve? Here are some of the things I’ve learnt over the years to help listen and communicate effectively.

  1. Understand, don’t respond      

    Often when we engage in a conversation we listen intending to respond rather than listen to understand the other person. Its almost as if we’re engaging with our own ego and speaking to ourselves. Next time you have a conversation, try to focus on the person without thinking of a response, allow your ears to listen and understand more than just the words. Most importantly, don’t feel the need to respond straight away, process what they say, if that requires you to think about things and get back to them later, then do so.

  2.  Turn off your internal radio   

    Although this can be tough, it’s important to switch off the background noise especially if we want to listen effectively. Being present requires us to stop multitasking, park our other worries to the side and turning off our internal radio. Most importantly and probably the hardest, however, is it requires us to avoid manufacturing responses in our minds when having a conversation. Try becoming a blank book, don’t fill it with your own story or narratives, instead let the author; the person your speaking to write what they need to, whilst you, the reader understands the meaning behind each word.

  3. Look out for meaning, not just words   

    Words are often known as vehicles to meaning, so instead of solely looking at the words look at the context and meaning behind those words. Avoid attaching your own narratives to the other person’s words, don’t attach your story, which can often be based on our limited past experiences. Seek context through clarity and sincerity.

  4. Clarify

    After they speak its important to clarify what you think you’ve understood, use questions such as what did you mean by that? I’ve understood what you’ve said in this way, am I correct? Can you clarify this for me? By questioning you are clarifying your position and intern demonstrating sincerity to them and to yourself.

  5. Starting Young

    From a very young age, speaking is given a lot of importance, it is seen as a sign of growth and development. Listening, however, is just as equal if not more important skill that can often be overlooked. We’re told to listen to our parents, teachers and bosses, but few of us are taught to listen actively or with sincerity. The kind of listening that will help us examine the information we hear, improve the quality of our decision making and most importantly help build meaningful relationships.

I hope these points bring some benefit to you just as they did for me. May Allah allow us to be sincere in our approach and become better listeners.

JazakAllahu Khayran