“Good listeners are like trampolines.”
—Harvard Business Review
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When questioned about one’s listening skills, most people describe themselves above or well above average, similar to when queried about their driving ability.
As markers for this self-assessment, they often confirm this bias by the fact that they do not talk while others are speaking. They can often repeat word-for-word what others have said.
In the book Mindful Listening, six levels of listening are described, with each going deeper into greater levels of mastery. Hallmarks of the very best listeners include:
- The use of powerful questions to clarify assumptions
- Selectively injecting some thoughts and ideas on the topic at hand that could be useful to the other person
- Great listeners never highjack the conversation and make it about themselves
- They act as trampolines instead of sponges. Their efforts amplify, energize, and clarify ones thinking.
Where and with whom in your personal or professional life would being a more masterful listener make the biggest difference? Consider exploring Mindful Listening as a helpful resource in this effort.
“Argue as if you are right and listen as if you are wrong.”
—Chip Conley, American hotelier, author, and speaker
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We all desire autonomy. We all wish to be heard and to have what we say make an impact and influence our world. To do that, we must voice our thoughts and opinions, sometimes loudly.
After all, speaking about the future well beyond our current reality may never be noticed if we are silent or only whisper our views to avoid a ruckus.
We have two ears and one mouth. Our creator must have known that we would need to hear other’s voices that might be contrary to our own, and consider the possibility of our own views being incorrect.
To what degree do you currently speak up and argue for what you believe?
How carefully and completely do you currently listen to others, given the potential for being wrong?
In which of these areas and with whom would an extra effort make the biggest difference?
“The more you know about the people you serve, the better you serve the people you know.”
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Whenever I am asked to give a presentation to a group, I always take considerable time to get to know my audience. I also find this especially important in the discovery phase of a successful coaching engagement.
Although I have access to many tools and techniques to support their developmental goals, the resources are of little value to those attending my programs who are not seeking or open to what I wish to share.
Many years ago, I learned a concept that makes this point nicely. Simply stated: Speak to their Listening.
Where and with whom can and will you take time to learn more about the people you serve so you can better serve the people you know?
“The word ‘listen’ has the same letters as the word ‘silent.’”
—Alfred Brendel, Austrian pianist, poet and author
Image from Unsplash by Jodie P.
How high would you rate yourself in the category of listening?
How close do you come to the two-to-one ratio implied by the fact that you have two ears and only one mouth?
What makes this skill so very difficult?
Perhaps it has to do with the fact that we almost always listening to our own inner thoughts and opinions instead of granting others the respect and honor of our silence and full attention.
With whom in your personal or professional communities would it make the biggest difference if you silenced your inner voice and listened far more deeply?
“You should not decide until you have heard what both sides have to say.”
—Aristophanes, 4th Century BC Greek Playwright
Image from Unsplash by Ehimetalor Unuabono
Do you ever say — aloud or perhaps even more often to yourself — “My mind is made up” or “I know!”? How often do you get the impression that others in your personal or professional communities express similar thoughts?
If these scenarios sound familiar, you are probably dealing with what I call “Shortcut Listening.” This happens when an individual or group gathers just enough information to fill in the rest of the word puzzles based on their own opinions, experiences, and biases.
Where and with whom would taking the long road of listening help you and others make far better decisions at work and at home?
“Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming.”
—David Bowie, late British singer, actor, and songwriter
Image from Unsplash by Kyle Glenn
In the animal kingdom the ability to hear is critical to survival regardless of whether you are predator or prey. The other senses definitely have their role in making sure they get to experience another day, or even the next moment.
What are the ways you currently sense what is just around the corner or perhaps far off in the distance? Consider this question for both personal and professional matters that are urgent and important to not only surviving, but thriving.
How might applying a herd mentality – where you are just one of many sets of eyes, ears, and noses – broaden your capacity to sense and react more quickly and more proactively?
Consider reaching out to family, friends, teachers, mentors, and coaches in your current communities to have many more better tomorrows.
“Listen or your tongue will keep you deaf.”
—Cree Nation Proverb
Image from Unsplash by Ashton Bingham
How many ways are there to take in information about the world? Probably first on your list would be the capacity to hear. Take a minute to examine all your other senses to notice how they allow you to fully take in what is happening around you.
Considerable research has been done to demonstrate enhanced perception of the other senses when working without the capacity to hear.
Many of us experience a form of temporary deafness throughout our day in both our personal and professional communities. The act of speaking, and perhaps talking too often or too much, actually diminishes our capacity to hear and fully listen to the ideas and contributions of others.
Consider another wise saying: When you’re doing all the talking you’re not learning anything. (Amy Castro, Performance Communication expert)
Where and with whom would a quiet tongue and a far more open set of ears provide the greatest benefit?
Consider sharing this intention to listen more full with at least one key person in your life.
“It’s better to bite your tongue than to eat your words.”
—Frank Sonnenberg, business expert and author
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An important aspect of the coaching process is to significantly increase the self awareness and mindfulness capacities of our clients. With this in mind, listening and paying attention to our inner voices and words before they are put out into the world seems to be wise counsel.
Consider just how much negativity, judgement, and criticism you hear throughout your days. How much do you find yourself contributing to this in your personal or professional communities?
Where would biting your tongue and taking an “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” approach prevent you from eating your words?
Try using the acronym W.A.I.T.: Why. Am. I. Talking. – as a technique to keep your negative inner voice on mute more often.
“Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found.”
—Echart Tolle, Author of A New Earth
Image from Unsplash by Lee Campbell
One of my favorite books is Seven Thousand Ways to Listen by Mark Nepo. How many ways can you think of to listen? The point to Nepo’s title is perhaps what Deepak Chopra describes as “Living the Questions of Life” and their ability to move you into the sacred answers of your authentic self.
With this in mind, the practice of being still, quiet, and more patient with life seems to be solid strategy to letting creativity blossom, and to let the answers to life’s questions and problems reveal themselves.
Where and in what ways can you bring greater stillness into your world? How could this boost your creative efforts? How could it solve a few of those pesky problems that present themselves as you rush through your day?
“It is greed to do all the talking but not to want to listen at all.”
—Democritus of Abdera, Ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher
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Vampires really do exist.
Consider the individuals in your life who talk incessantly and rarely take a breath to allow others to express themselves.
In such situations, many people experience a draining feeling as if much of their energy was stolen.
Who are some of the greedy energy vampires in your world? Who among your family, friends, and colleagues, might place you on their list?
Where would far more generous listening and far less greedy talking make the biggest difference in your world? What action can and will you take today to make this possibility a reality?