How to listen so people will talk

With all the advances in technology, some would argue that the art of conversation is slowly dwindling away.  With email, texting, twitter, Facebook etc it is easy to go throughout the day without having a conversation with anyone, yet still having communicated with everyone.  As our communications are becoming more directive to meet the efficient needs of technology, our conversations are following, leaving us with the feeling that we don’t have time to talk with others, others just don’t get or understand us, or that we can never get our point across in a way that people comprehend.   Part of our new “effective” directive communication is that we no longer take the time to listen to others, nor do we take the time to be curious about what they have to say or the reasons they are sharing it.

Last week we covered COACHING CULTURE™ Listening Choices 1 and 2 in “What does your listening style say about you?”.   Both choices can come off as directive, telling, judging, critical, right/wrong.  While Choice 2 is effective and necessary in certain professions, both Listening Choice 1 and 2 lack curiosity which leads to understanding, collaboration, and innovation – the language of the 21st century.

Below we outline COACHING CULTURE™ Listening Choices 3 and 4.  We are continuing to use the same example as we did in Listening Choices 1 and 2 – the example is based on a client’s experience.

 

COACHING CULTURE™ Listening Choices: From “Me” to “We”

Listening Choice 1 : It’s All About Me – “I”

In the first choice of listening, we listen and think only of ourselves, not the speaker.  Everything that we hear comes through our own lens and experience rather than listening to the experience of the speaker.   When using this approach, we are inclined to use the word “I,” and will often preface our responses with, “I think you should…,” “I would…,” and “I know…”

Listening Choice 2: You Should…

In Listening Choice 2 we are only focused on the speaker in a way that makes us feel we can help them so they can do the right thing. In this choice, we are trying to fix them, and tend to be judgmental or critical, since we know what is best for them.

When using this approach, we tend to use the word “you,” and often say, “You should…,” “You need to…,” “You have to…”

Listening Choice 3: Being Curious…

In Listening Choice 3 we are truly active in how we listen. We focus on information from all sources, including words, tone, facial and body language.  We are free from blame, and curious and open to what is important to the speaker. We remain objective in our listening.

The employee says to her manager, “I want to take a course on time management to help me be more effective.” The manager’s response could be: “It sounds like time management is something you would like to work on. What are your reasons for wanting to take this course? How do you think it will help you?”

The manager’s response was curious, wanting to know more about the reasons his employee feels she needs this course while also keeping the focus on her. This allows the employee to respond, for example, “I feel like I have been ineffective in my time management and have found myself struggling to get my work done. I feel unprepared for meetings, I never know what to complete first, and feel like this is affecting my work performance.” The manager might respond with, “What courses are you considering? When are you interested in doing this?”

The use of open questions enables the manager to remain open and curious without judging/ blaming/ or “fixing” the employee, while maintaining the focus on her and her needs. This choice of listening allows the manager to dig deeper, learn what is really going on, and the employee feels seen, heard, and understood. This approach is more objective, with little emotion involved. It can be used as a strategy for someone who begins to feel an emotion creep into their body during a conversation, one they think could sabotage their part in the conversation.

When using this approach, our questions are open and begin with who, what, where, when, and how.  Tell me more is also a great way to gain understanding of another’s perspective.

Listening Choice 4: WE Collaborate and Innovate

In Choice 4, each party comes to the conversation with a vested interest, something they want to discuss and move towards concluding.  Once again there is an opportunity for both parties to be open and curious about the other’s perspective and experience, creating in both, a new awareness, deeper understanding, and empathy – a collaborative conversation.  Once again, we see this as a choice for the 21st Century.

The employee says to her manager, “I want to take a course on time management to help me be more effective.”  The manager could respond: “I have a limited training budget this year and need to make sure all of it is used effectively.  It sounds like time management is an issue for you. What are your reasons for wanting to take this course? How do you think it will help you?”

The employee’s response: “I feel like I have been ineffective in my time management and have found myself struggling to get my work done. I feel unprepared for meetings, I never know what to complete first, and feel like this is affecting my work performance.

The manager might respond: “It looks like you are organized and prepared for meetings. I feel you are able to meet the deadlines I set.  It sounds like you don’t have the same sense of your effectiveness as I do.  I would like to support you in this. Together I would like to explore options and develop a strategy to help you feel more commitment in time management and from that we can determine if this course is the best option for you.  What would it be like for you if you felt you were effective in completing your work?   

Listening Choice 4 allows both parties to be seen, heard and understood.  Through open questions, being free of judgment and good old fashion curiosity, Listening Choice 4 creates a collaborative conversation where both parties are open to hear new perspectives – the language of the 21st century.  This choice nourishes conversations, builds relationships, and creates empathy and understanding in others.

We know we can intentionally choose to listen in a way that is inclusive of both the listener and speaker, in which we are open and curious to the perspectives of the speaker, encouraging the exploration of possibility and creating collaboration, ultimately leading to innovation.

We all listen at choice 1 and 2.  Choosing to listen at 3 and 4 takes awareness and practice.  We invite you to bring your awareness to your daily conversations, setting intention around your choice of listening.   Where do you find yourself the most?  How are choices 3 and 4 different from 1 and 2?  What do you notice about your conversations and the building of your relationships?    What daily practice can you set to bring your awareness to how you choose to listen?

Love what you see and want to share it with others, no problem!  Here is what you MUST include:

Property of COACHING CULTURE™, founded by Katherine Taberner and Kirsten Siggins.    www.mycoachingculture.com

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6 thoughts on “How to listen so people will talk

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