We have stopped listening.
It’s apparent everywhere you turn. The media screams, the White House screams, the streets scream, and – in your face all the time – social media screams.
The greatest gift given to another is to listen. You create connection and meaning. You offer and receive a gift, The one listened to receives the gift of acknowledgement, recognition, attention. The one doing the listening receives wisdom, information and peace.
Listening is the key to making decisions, to solving problems, to changing all those things we are shouting about.
“If we were meant to talk more than listen, we would have two mouths and one ear.”
~ Mark Twain ~
Why don’t we do it very well?
Client after client and student after student tell me we don’t do it well because the moment another person starts talking, we have already begun to prepare our response. We stop being still, being curious, being connected and begin being in charge again, trying to control outcomes. The ‘listen to speak’ model neglects two important components in the listening process.
- Understanding the message and
- Interpreting through a filter cleaned of assumptions and judgments.
Many of us fool ourselves into believing we are great listeners. Be willing to be zen about this. In other words, let’s approach listening with a beginner’s mind.
Consider 4 Action Steps to Listen Well:
- Practice silence – your attention is like a prayer. Breathe deeply, become curious, be willing to suspend your agenda and sit quietly to allow the other person all the time they need.
- Ask meaningful and open-ended questions as this encourages the speaker to clarify and continue.
- Pay attention and honor emotion. Often what’s being said is more purely communicated in the emotions being expressed rather than the words being uttered.
- Respond versus React. Pay attention to your own emotions as a listener. When we give in to the impulse of reaction, that’s when we jump in with our own agenda. Take a few deep breaths and stay with the conversation.
“Effective questioning brings insight, which fuels curiosity, which cultivates wisdom.”
~ Chip Bell ~
So that you do not you think this method is passive, let’s be clear.
Listening is active and alive and alert. When you listen and listen well, you are easily able to move into a meaningful dialogue with the other. This lets you go beyond the surface and that’s when the magic happens. Think about a time when you were in love. You hung on every word but there was nothing inactive in you. You felt alive and connected and deeply curious. Maybe listening is a lot like love!
We could all do with a good refresher on how to listen and listen well. Listening deeply allows us to create new possibilities and seek common ground, rather than “my ground.” The world is depending upon our willingness to upgrade this skill.
Let’s start listening…
P.S. I’d like to invite you to the Leaders Inspired business page on Facebook. Every Tuesday, I am broadcasting a short piece on leadership and EQ and would like you to be a part of it. Join us for #TransformationTuesday, by liking the page here.