Since starting the master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, I’ve learned so much about how to listen and connect with others in a way that makes them feel heard.
One skill that I’ve found to be useful is mirroring the person I’m interacting with. I try to match their energy, and I match the amount of eye contact they’re giving. Everyone seems to have a different level of eye contact that they’re comfortable with. I personally do not like a lot of eye contact, but if I’m speaking to someone who does, then I adapt to suit their preferences.
As for energy, I think a lot of us know how it feels to be super excited about something and to tell someone important to us about it, only for them to be not really listening or worse, to think whatever we’re excited about is stupid. So, I do my best to match the other person’s energy in a conversation. I am genuinely excited when someone comes to me with something they’re passionate about. It means I’m important enough to them that they want me to know about it. It’s kind of an honor. I also try to ask questions about whatever it is. In my experience, even if the question ends up being dumb, they’re usually just really excited to have an opportunity to talk more about it.
Another skill that has been helpful for me even in regular conversation has been reflecting. Reflecting is when you think about what the person has said and identify the feelings or meanings contained in their words and body language. This can help the other person feel validated. Reflecting can look something like this:
Person 1: My friends didn’t sit with me at lunch today. They sat outside and played hopscotch after without me.
Person 2 (reflection): It sounds like you felt left out and sad when your friends did their own thing at lunch today.
It’s usually okay to mess up the reflection too because it gives the other person a chance to correct you and tell you more about what’s going on with them.
A big area that I’ve been working on since I started school is how quiet my voice is naturally. People have told me my whole life that I’m soft-spoken, and they can’t hear me, but I never really knew how to fix it. I’ve really had to practice at speaking up, and sometimes, it really feels like I’m yelling, but when I play my audio back, I’m definitely not. It’s been interesting for me.
I’m also working on challenging and confrontation skills. These can be really important for making progress with clients, and they scare me a little because I’m not used to using them. They seem less scary to me now that I’ve learned more about them. A “challenge” can be like when a person is saying that they aren’t angry, but their hands are balled into tight fists, and their teeth are clenched, and you challenge them by pointing out their fists and teeth.
That’s all I have to say about listening skills for now. I hope you have a great day!