Are You Truly Listening?

In the first Curiosity Skill, being present to ABSORB, we learned that listening begins with the choice to pay attention to what the speaker is saying. And there’s more to listening than simply choosing to pay attention. How are we listening to them? Are we listening for full understanding, to hear what we want to hear, or to judge? What are we thinking as we ABSORB what they’re saying?

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Most of us are never taught how to listen to understand. We intuitively begin listening in utero and hone this ability as babies, most likely as a survival skill to make sure we are able to connect with our caregivers and have our needs met. As we matured, listening is just an expectation of life, helping us connect with others to learn, express ourselves, understand, and build relationships. Many of us take the act of listening for granted, believing we’re good listeners. Yet when we ask others how often they feel listened to, most will say rarely; no one we’ve asked has said they feel listened to all the time.

The Five Listening Choices

If we want to understand the perspectives of others, to be respectful of them, we need to intentionally choose how we listen to them. When we are fully present in the moment, ABSORBing what is being said to us, all of a sudden several listening choices become available to us. Rather than simply two listening choices—i.e., whether to listen or not—we believe we actually have five listening choices whenever we are listening to another person. For example, we may choose to listen in order to understand the full intended meaning of the speaker. We may choose to just listen to the words spoken. Or we may choose not to listen, ignoring the speaker completely. Again, the choice is ours.

Listening Choice 1: Ignore the Speaker

In Choice 1, we are choosing not to listen to the speaker. We may hear noise, but rather than actively listening to it, we are compiling a to-do list, thinking about a plan for later, reading e-mails/social media posts, or waiting for the speaker to be silent so we can change the subject to speak about what we want. In short, we are not present, and we are not paying attention.

Listening Choice 2: Focus on Me

In Choice 2, we choose to pay attention to the speaker through the lens of the gremlin, or that inner critic inside our head, which compares the perspective of the speaker with our own and judges the speaker in the context of us. Like Choice 1, Choice 2 gives us no opportunity to be curious, as our thoughts are focused on our needs rather than those of the speaker.

Here’s what Choice 2 might look like in a personal conversation:

Speaker: “I think I will stop dating John.”

Listener thinks: About time. I would never have gone out with John in the first place.

The comment is heard in a way that puts it in the context of the listener.

Listening Choice 3: Focus on You

In Choice 3, as the listener, we pay attention to the speaker, and our “gremlin voice” judges the speaker in the speaker’s own context. Choice 3 is frequently the choice of helpers, or people who want to support others by providing advice and helping them to solve problems. They pay attention to what is being said and jump to thinking about a solution, judging the speaker’s situation and telling him or her what to do, even if advice is not requested.

Using the same examples as used in Choice 2, Choice 3 listening would look like this:

Speaker: “I think I will stop dating John.”

Listener thinks: About time. He has not treated you well, and you should have stopped dating him long ago. In fact, you should never have dated him in the first place.

Again, the comment is heard in a way that puts it in the context of the listener.

Listening Choice 4: Focus on Understanding

In Choice 4, we choose to relinquish control over the outcome of the conversation. We intentionally, actively listen to what is being said and how it is said. We do not judge, and our gremlin voice is quiet. Instead we are receptive and open to the speaker, seeking to understand what the speaker is saying. We have no preconceived ideas about the outcome or what we think the speaker should do. We have the opportunity to be curious, to explore possibilities.

Looking at our two examples from above:

Speaker: “I think I will stop dating John.”

Listener thinks: I wonder what has made her decide to do this? How is she going to do this? How does she feel about this decision?

In this choice, the focus is on the speaker and how the listener is curious to support the needs of the speaker.

            Listening Choice 5: Focus on Us

Although completely relinquishing control can create a deep connection, sometimes it does not serve us to be ambiguous when we have a stake in the outcome of the conversation. In Choice 5, we choose to intentionally, actively listen and remain invested in the outcome of the conversation. We want to understand the perspectives of others and work together to understand the needs of everyone and determine what to do next.

Looking at our examples:

Speaker: “I think I will stop dating John.”

Listener thinks: I wonder when she plans to speak to John? I will be away this weekend and want to support her. What support does she think she will need? How can I be there for her if I am away?

So the listener is open and curious and is invested in supporting her friend.

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There is value to each Listening Choice, which we go into in The Power Of Curiosity: How to Have Real Conversations That Create Collaboration, Innovation and Understanding.   How you choose to listen in each conversation is going to affect your leadership, the tone and outcome of the conversation and ultimately influence the relationship.

 

TAKE ACTION: Pay attention to your Listening Choice. What do you notice about the conversation?

Cheat sheet: If you hear yourself saying “I” a lot in conversation, then you are in Choice 2. If you hear yourself saying “you” a lot, then you are in Choice 3. And if you hear yourself asking curious open questions (which you’ll learn more about next week), then you know you are in Choice 4. Practice and play with each choice, and pay attention to the outcomes you achieve.

 

Want a FREE Copy of the book?

How often do you truly listen to others?

Share with us in the comment box and be entered to win a signed copy of “The Power of Curiosity: How to Have Real Conversations That Create Collaboration, Innovation and Understanding”. If you haven’t downloaded your free chapters yet you can do it here.

 

How do I get people to listen to me?

Don’t talk AT them!

  1. Start by listening to others. When people know what it feels like to be listened to it is easier for them to listen to others.
  2. Include people in the conversation – no one likes being told what to do!
  3. Be respectful of others’ thoughts and ideas, even if you don’t like or agree with them. One must give respect to get respect.

 

See “How can I increase happiness in my life?” and “What If I like to judge others?”   Next week we will answer “How do I deal with drama at work?”

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2 thoughts on “Are You Truly Listening?

  1. Pingback: CURIOSITY: Making Hope Possible Rather Than Despair Convincing | Coaching Culture is now

  2. Pingback: How To Have Curious Conversations | Coaching Culture is now

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