When people give up an addiction they can spend a great deal of time talking. This is particularly likely if they join a recovery fellowship or enter group therapy. There is no doubt that talking can help people recover from their addiction, but sometimes it can be far more helpful to listen. This will allow the individual to soak up the information they need, and it can also allow them to be of comfort to other people. Listening is a skill that most addicts will have failed to develop. It is something that they will need to learn to do in order to build a successful life away from addiction.
There are different ways to listen, and each of these help the listener to achieve different objectives. These are some of the different types of listening:
* Critical listening is often used when attempting to gain information in order to make a decision. In this situation the listener will be trying to evaluate the reliability of the information that is being provided. This type of listening requires continuous effort.
* Discriminative listening involves using more of the senses and not just relying on the words being spoken. When listening in this way it is important to be aware of the body language of the speaker. This will give clues as to the real meaning of what the individual is saying. For example, if a person is angry about something, it may be more apparent in their body language then in their words. By noting the body language, the listener will be able to better understand what is being said.
* Appreciative listening is when people listen for pleasure. Listening to music is a good example of this.
* Empathetic listening involves really trying to understand things from the speaker’s point of view. The listener does this by imagining how they would feel if they were faced with the same problems as the speaker. This type of listening can be important for building trust. This is why it is often used by therapists. Empathetic listening allows the other individual to really fell like they’ve really been heard.
* Sympathetic listening does not require the same type of intensity as emphatic listening. It just means giving the other person the opportunity to talk about their concerns and worries. It is important to let the other person talk and not pass judgment.
* Therapeutic Listening involves not only listening empathetically but also using what is being said as a way to benefit the other individual. The speaker can be guided in such a way that talking about their problem becomes cathartic. It is not necessary to become a therapist in order to be able to listen in this way.
Listening is beneficial for people in recovery in a number of ways including:
* When people listen they discover more about the world. By listening to those individuals who have long-term sobriety it is possible to benefit from their experience. Listening to newly sober people is helpful because it reminds the addict of where they have come from. Even the most unlikely person can say something profound that can change the life of the listener.
* Listening makes it possible to discover opportunities that might otherwise have been missed. Other people can be fountains of knowledge. They can inspire the listener to take on new projects or change direction in life.
* Listening to another person shows them that you care about them. If one partner does not seem to ever listen it can put a real strain on the relationship.
* Listening to other people can be a type of recovery aid to the speaker. It might not be possible to provide actual physical help to other people, but just listening to them can be a great help. One of the great benefits of belonging to a recovery fellowship is that there are always people there to listen.
* People who are willing to listen find it easy to make friends. Other individuals will be drawn to them as someone they can respect and trust. Those individuals who spend too much time talking can struggle to build real friendships.
* In order to have a clear picture of any situation, it is vital to listen to what is being said. Many people only half-listen so they never really know what is going on. This often means that they make poor decisions and come in conflict with other people.
Biased listening is a trap that many people fall into. It means that people only hear what they want to hear. They will ignore any information that does not confirm what they already believe to be true. This is a common form of listening for addicts to engage in. It allows them to stay trapped in denial. It is vital that people in recovery are able to avoid biased listening where possible. These are some of the dangers of selectively hearing things in recovery:
* What people need to hear and what they want to hear are often poles apart. In order for the individual in recovery to establish a successful life they will need to obtain the right information. This will often involve accepting things that initially make them feel uncomfortable.
* Biased listeners have very little insight into themselves or other people. They tend to be completely self-absorbed.
* Biased listening is a stumbling block to learning anything. The individual who listens in this way will tend to misinformed on different subjects.
* This way of interacting with the world encourages prejudice and conflict. If the individual has already made their mind up about other people they will not be willing to hear what they have to say. The only information accepted will be things that confirm the prejudice.
* Biased listeners can be hard to spend time with. Friends and family become frustrated because this type of listener will distort everything they say. Such people tend to be constantly coming in conflict with other people because of their misunderstandings.
* When people are listening in this way it is not really possible for them to be of help to the speaker.
These are a few things that people can do to become better listeners:
* It is better not to think about replying until after the other person has finished talking. There is a tendency for people to plan what they are going to say before the other person has stopped talking. This means that they are missing out on much that is being said.
* Listening to other people is difficult if there are too many distractions. The key is to give full attention to the other person. This means putting away the mobile phone and turning off the TV or music player. Nowadays, people have become obsessed with multitasking. It is never a good idea to multitask while listening. In fact, it is rude to do so.
* It is a good idea to silently count to 10 after the other person stops talking. This allows time to consider a response and demonstrates to the other individual that they are being listened too. It shows that the listener has not just been waiting for their turn to speak.
* Briefly clarifying what the other individual has just said can be beneficial if there is any confusion. It also further reassures the speaker that the listener has been paying attention. If the listener is unsure about what has being said, they may develop misleading assumptions.
* In order to fully understand where the other person is coming from it is necessary to pay attention to body language. This can often provide more clues about what is being said than the actual words being spoken.
* It can sometimes be helpful to offer encouraging words to the speaker. This could include utterances such as “and”, “then”, and “umm-hmm.” It is not a good idea to have too many encouraging prompts, because this can distract the speaker.
* Silence can be a useful tool when listening to other people. It gives the other person the opportunity to gather their thoughts. There is no need to fill silence with words unless there is a real purpose.
* Mindfulness meditation is a powerful tool that will allow people to become better listeners. It involves being fully present in the moment and accepting what is happening – two attributes of an effective listener.