Talking and criticizing is easy, we just open our mouth and say what we think. Listening and understanding is much more difficult because it involves, above all, taken a proactive approach that allows us to put ourselves in background and empathize with the person we’re facing. To avoid the problems caused by this attitude in interpersonal relationships, we just have to keep in mind the words of Epictetus: “Nature gave us two eyes, two ears and one mouth so that we could observe and listen twice as much as we speak.”
Active listening is a virtue for a few
Many people will simply listen, which is not the same as understanding. They hear what we’re saying but do not process it, then they just simply follow a set script in their mind that sometimes does not even have points of contact with what we’ve said. These people do not understand communication as something that enriches, but as a battle to be won at all costs, in which one must be right and the other wrong.
Active listening is another thing, implies a greater effort, both cognitively and emotionally. Active listening means going beyond words to understand the emotions and feelings that underlie the speech.
It implies an active attitude, in which we try to put ourselves in the place of the other, so as not to criticize but put ourselves in his way of being and into the experiences that has lived, to really understand what he’s saying.
Active listening means being emotionally available, fully present, to connect with our interlocutor. In fact, it doesn’t simply mean listening, but also ask questions to help us better understand the message that are trying to send us.
A subtle clue indicating that the person is connected emotionally and maintains an active listening is what is known as “mirroring.” It is a reflex in which the listener repeats, without realizing it, some of the body movements and gestures of the speaker, especially facial expressions that indicate emotions such as pain, joy, disgust or fear.
When we criticize we lose an opportunity to grow
We all criticize. The criticism stems from our tendency to compare. We constantly compare things to see if they are better or worse, larger or smaller, more or less adequate…
But in relationships it is very easy to switch from confrontation to criticism assuming the role of judges. All those behaviors, attitudes and ways of thinking that do not conform to our values and expectations end up being criticized. Because we often criticize what we do not understand or frighten us.
However, when we criticize we lose a valuable opportunity to grow. Criticism is a conclusion, a fact that we take for granted. Conversely, when we put ourselves in the place of the others it can be produced a substantial change because we go out of our smaller “self” and enter into another reality, which can be much richer or simply different, where we can learn and try new things.
Therefore, criticism does more harm to those who use it rather than those who are criticized, because the latter can forget the words he has heard, but critics will have lost forever the chance to grow and connect with another person.
3 Golden Rules to criticize less and be more empathetic
1. If you focus on words you perceive only half the message. Only when you go beyond the words you can really connect with the person. Try to discover the emotions that support your speech and you’ll be able to better understand what the person is telling you, thanks to empathy.
2. Put yourself in the place of the other, or at least try. If for a moment you stop thinking about yourself, leave your preconceived beliefs and try to put yourself in another’s place, it will be much more difficult to assume the judge’s attitude.
3. Everybody makes mistakes, you too. Treat the others as you want to be treated. When you assume that we all make mistakes sooner or later, you’ll become more comprehensive and adopt a more tolerant attitude. Think about how you like to be treated. You want to be judged or criticized, or would you prefer a more empathetic and comprhensive attitude towards you? Remember that everything you give sooner or later it will be returned to you, in one way or another.