Secrets to Connection: Learning How to Listen Like Oprah

Secrets to Connection: Learning How to Listen Like Oprah

I have always admired Oprah and her ability to really connect with people so they feel heard and understood. Have ever wondered how to listen like Oprah?

I have always admired Oprah and her ability to really connect with people so they feel heard and understood. Although I do aspire to be like her, I’ll be the first to admit, I can get distracted too! Let’s face it, sometimes there are just so many distractions that it takes some mad skills to stop your mind and really give people the focus and attention they deserve.

I really noticed this during Covid, where we had a full house and not a lot of that sacred solo space to be found. Don’t get me wrong, I feel like it was a real blessing to have everyone home during such a difficult time, but sometimes I just tuned out the chatter. And shhh don’t tell my family, but they probably really did tell me about that scheduling conflict or that they needed the car at a certain time, or the latest drama from work or school. But if they ask me, I’ll deny it to the end!

So what do we need to do to listen like Oprah? Listening doesn’t just happen with your ears, it takes all of your senses to become a superstar at it. That’s what we’ll talk about today!

You can read the blog or watch the video below.

Last week we talked about that 7-38-55 rule from Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s research. It suggested that, in terms of the emotional content of your message only 7% comes across in your words. The tonality of our voice is about 38% and body language is 55%.

We’ve all experienced this … an argument with a partner where their words are saying one thing, but their tone of voice is saying another. Or someone tells you what you’re saying is important to them but they’re looking at their watch or phone at the same time.

Paying attention to words, tonality and body language becomes key not only in how you show up for the other person, but in how you ‘listen’ to what they are really saying.

How do you do this? You can start by using all of your senses.

1.  Listen with your ears

  • What words are they using?
  • How are they saying it? Is their voice soft, harsh, high pitched, low? Do they actually sound sad, angry, irritated or something else?
  • If you’re listening for a long stretch, you can often remember key words and phrases by making a mental picture of what the person is saying, or use whatever strategy works best for you.
  • Remember, sometimes having someone there paying attention to you and listening is all you need.

2.  Listen with your eyes

  • What is their body doing? Are they slouched? Head down? Where are their eyes looking?
  • Is their body language in line with their words? Are there words saying it’s ok that they had a tough day at work, but their body language suggests a feeling of defeat?

3.  Listen with your mouth

  • Ask questions that help you in understanding what the other person means. Be sure to do this in a kind a non-judgemental way. We’re not trying to interpret or jump to conclusions, we’re checking for understanding. Use phrases like “Do you mean …”, or “I am understanding XX, is that right?”
  • Wait for the speaker to pause before you check for understanding. Interrupting can make one feel unimportant or unheard.
  • Try not to sidetrack the other person by injecting something about you into the conversation. For example, if they are telling you a story about a difficult encounter at work, that’s probably not the best time to say “oh I haven’t seen Bob in so long, how is he?”
  • Listen attentively without trying to figure out what you’re going to say next.
  • Give regular feedback confirming you’re listening. An appropriately placed nod, ‘hmm’, ‘uh huh’ or ‘that must have been so difficult’ shows your understanding.

4.  Listen with your body

  • Face the other person, and look them in the eyes. You don’t need to stare them down, it’s only natural to look away. Keep your body relaxed but attentive.
  • Use your facial expressions to show empathy.
  • You can also use your body to show interest, like leaning into a conversation, putting down what you were doing, or turning to face the person.
  • Listening with your body also means listening with your heart in an empathic, non-judgemental manner that allows the other person to be at ease with you. Put yourself in that person’s place. What does it feel like to be him? If it feels sad, or happy, or whatever, allow your body to communicate you feel that sadness or happiness perhaps with your facial expression or an inhalation of excitement.
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Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

5.  Listen with your knows (aka nose)

OK this was a tough one! I’m choosing to categorize this under Intuitive Listening. Intuitive listening is our ability to read between the lines, to pick up on the unspoken clues that hint at a larger story behind the words. This reminds me of a Sherlock Holmes type character tapping his nose like he knows something.

  • To me, listening with your ‘knows’ means listening also to your intuitive knowing, what your gut is telling you. You might not consciously be able to pick up on all the different body or tonality cues, or what’s not being said, but your intuitive knowing will.

So what is the key to listening like Oprah? Use all of your senses!

  • What do you hear?
  • What do you see?
  • Use your words appropriately.
  • What sort of body language are you witnessing, and expressing?
  • And, what do you know intuitively?

If you could use more calm, clarity and connection and joy in your challenging relationship, I have so many great strategies to share with you to help you level up your communications skills. Let’s talk!

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I hope to see you again soon and thanks for listening!