Good listening skills add value to every aspect of your life: your profession, friends, family, and everyone with whom you communicate will appreciate your efforts to make conversation more meaningful. This is especially true for our food-delivery volunteers.
Honing Your Listening Skills
At Maot Chitim, food delivery to help those who in need celebrate the holidays, is one aspect of volunteering. But the connection you make with those people is sometimes more important than the food delivery itself. What they say to you could speak more loudly – and more eloquently – than the words “thank you” can convey. You simply have to be able to hear them.
- Ask open-ended questions. Questions that elicit a “yes” or “no” response are show-stoppers. Ask questions that require your speakers to use their words.
- Be honest. There are some things that aren’t within your control. Let your speaker know that while you can’t change the situation, you recognize the need to express frustrations and perhaps offer coping advice instead.
- Don’t be a fixer. This is hardest of all; people like us want to make everything better for everyone! Just listen. Let your speaker vent while you mentally work things out. Then, offer solutions they can implement themselves.
- Maintain eye contact. It’s tempting to give a speaker “privacy” when he or she is emotional by looking elsewhere. Don’t. Focus on them so they’ll know you can “hear” their feelings.
- Make mental notes. If you were a newspaper reporter, you would strive to remember everything; exact wording, voice inflections, facial expressions. Listen as if you have to “report” the conversation later.
- Mute your cellphone. When it chimes, even if you don’t pick up, it’s an interruption that is a conversation deal-breaker.
- Refresh yourself. Regular exercise keeps you mentally alert and feeling good. You can’t listen well with a foggy brain! Positivity helps others, too.
- Repeat what you heard. It’s an oldie but goodie: “I hear you saying…” This ensures you truly understood what the speaker was saying and also reinforces that you care enough to listen closely and comprehend.