How often when we’re speaking do we suspect the other person of already formulating their reply? They can barely wait for us to finish before they’re coming back with their own comments. In fact they may not even pause for us to stop speaking before they’re interrupting.
In those instances do you feel listened to, respected, acknowledged?
In order for us to feel acknowledged the other person has to listen to us, really listen. The saying, ‘you have two ears and one mouth, use them proportionally!’ is so relevant at these times. Not being listened to can be a significant indicator that a relationship has run its course and is over. Equally, I know of several people who’ve left good jobs and taken pay cuts to go and work in a more attentive and appreciative environment. Positive relationships include acknowledgment and make all the difference to our quality of life.
When we listen well we demonstrate interest with our body language. We make eye contact, lean towards the speaker, perhaps reflect back what we’ve heard, all to reassure them that we understand and have got the story right. Eagerly asking relevant questions reinforces that message, shows that we care and are keen to acknowledge what they’re saying.
Acknowledgement means allowing the other person to speak without interruption. It’s important to be patient and respectfully listen to what they have to say, even if they take their time processing their thoughts or get a little tongue-tied. Try to avoid finishing their sentences or second-guessing them.
If someone’s hurting or struggling with pain or grief it can be tempting to give advice or deliver ‘you’re strong, you’ll be fine’ type platitudes. Whilst many people feel relieved to know that others have been where they are and survived, it can still be a little unhelpful and even appear dismissive.
Allow the other person to go through their pain whilst being there for them. No one can truly know the extent of what someone else is feeling. Suggesting that we do know may make the other person feel negated, bad, in some way a failure, especially if they’re frustrated that they’re not recovering as quickly as others or are unable to see any light at the end of the tunnel.They may come to feel disinclined in the future to say anything about other tough experiences.
Alternatively people can become defensive or even angry if they feel that they’re being pushed too much or are not being properly listened to. They may feel under pressure to explain themselves, justify why they feel the way they do, reveal why they’re in this situation. Being given tacit permission to say how they feel in their own time and way is far more supportive and respectful.
Acknowledgement means listening completely, allowing the person to share their thoughts and feelings whilst being ‘present’ for them. We accept them and their pain, are not irritated, embarrassed or uncomfortable with what they’re saying. We provide space for them and their hurt, suffering and distress. Being there whilst they open up about what it’s like for them gives them the opportunity to voice those emotions, go through them and come out the other side.
Be there and allow their experience to be about personal growth, a positive experience as you provide effective acknowledgement.
It’s also important and good manners to acknowledge kindnesses and thoughtful gestures. None of us can be truly aware of what’s entailed when someone does an errand or helps us with a favour. Our being appreciative can make all the difference and make them feel valued, worthwhile and good about themselves.
Even saying ‘thank you’ when someone holds a door open for us or nodding in appreciation at being let out in traffic helps oil the wheels of our relationships with others. Our response may be the only smile they’ve received that day and can influence how they to behave with the next people they meet.
By acknowledging and appreciating others we help to enhance our relationships and continue interacting well. Acknowledgement is an important cornerstone in our relationships.
Don’t forget too to acknowledge the efforts of those who try to give comfort and are supportive of you. They may be clumsy, at times thoughtless in their choice of words, but give them credit for trying to be understanding and sensitive. Sometimes they might need your guidance as to the type of support needed. You can help them to help you.