I was in a group discussion the other day, where the topic was listening. After the call,
I started reflecting on all the "ways to listen" that I had previously shared as a corporate trainer. The more I reflected, the more how-tos came to mind...
- Use your incredible power of awareness. Notice when your mind has left the room and gently bring
yourself back in.
- Don't jump in with your first response. Wait to see what else comes up.
- Don't jump in to "telling". If you have to jump in with anything, then jump in with "asking"... Reflect on what you don't yet know and then ask what
occurs to you.
- Be curious
- Realize that you can't be heard until the person you are with has been (and more importantly, has felt) heard first
- You have two ears and one mouth for a reason
- If you're
afraid of forgetting what you want to say while the person speaks, write down key words as they occur to you, so you can remember what to say later, and so you can get back to listening now. Later, notice how many of your written "pearls of wisdom" were never
needed, and may actually have been in some way detrimental to the conversation or connection.
- Notice your body
language and feelings as clues to how well you're listening... Are you relaxed or tense? Are you smiling? How is your breathing? Are you leaning forward or back? Is your body open or closed? Are you mimicking their physical behaviours or contradicting them?
Are you making eye contact? Is your tone of voice equal to theirs? Are you at the same height (not standing while they're sitting or vice versa)? Are you feeling connected or separate? Do you like them or dislike them in the moment?
- Move to a calm, quiet environment conducive to listening
- Put down your phone, clear your desk, and turn away your computer screen before listening
- Plan ahead for the conversation, but don't go in with any assumptions or attachments to the outcome
- Leave your judgments, assumptions, and expectations at the door
- Leave your ego at the door
- Clients may not notice it, but they will always say that the best conversations were the ones where they did most of the talking...
and when the person they were with asked them questions that got them thinking in a new way
- Be creative with your
questioning to get them thinking and to get you listening... make them mostly open questions, don't ask them only what they already know, ask them to compare, ask them about best/worst/most/least, ask them "what if", ask them to imagine or speculate. Repeat
back what they've said to get confirmation for both of you, that what they said is what you heard (use their words so they feel important and heard)
- Selling is not telling
- Get used to the awkward discomfort of silence. Give them time
to think. Give yourself time to reflect.
- Earn their trust and feel the connection (ie, listen) before sharing your
- Listening is not a passive skill, it's a proactive skill
- Ask for permission to take notes
- Ask for permission to ask questions
- Even ask for permission to listen... get permission for the silence
Those are just the ones that came off
the top of my head, but the list goes on and on and on. And a grain of truth can be found in every single point, BUT there's something else that is so much greater to be seen.
In my past role, learning from all sorts of professional training organizations, there wasn't one single person, or at least
any one that I can remember, who ever gave me any indication that listening was NOT a skill and that NONE of the points on the list above could actually be "learned".
No one ever pointed out that underneath the experience of genuine listening was the deeper place it came from... that gave
every action its truth, and its authenticity, and its unique power in the moment.
No one ever pointed out that any moments of "doing listening" would get in the way of listening, and would more often arise as shallow, or off, or inauthentic, or parroting.
No one ever pointed out the possibility that "practice doesn't make perfect" and that
there's a greater underlying truth to realize.
No one ever pointed to the fact that listening was not something to do, or to gain, but more of something to just BE.
No one ever pointed out that listening was simply any moment we remember, "who and what we are within the essence of life itself".
Whenever any of us fall into any sense of this "impersonal, unconditional
experience of life", we tend to lose our personal ego, we tend to lose our desperate need to be seen and heard and validated, we tend to fall into a felt space of emptiness, or calm, or peace, or love, or curiosity, or appreciation, or understanding, or wonder.
And from there, we truly listen. In those moments we "are" listen.
And so everything on the long list of listening behaviours are not something to do, or to practice. All that effort unwittingly keeps us in our head and out of our heart.
Perhaps if there is anything to do, there is simply the happenstance of noticing whenever our own experience
of listening comes more naturally, and pondering gently on where that easy feeling comes from.
Just a tiny glimpse of that is EVERYTHING.