The Great Art

“Silence is one of the great arts of conversation.”

-Hanna More, 19th Century British Philanthropist

Image from Flickr by Shawn Harquail

Image from Flickr by Shawn Harquail

Many people think of silence as simply the lack of saying something. It is a void, an empty space where nothing is happening.

Today’s quote asks us to instead consider silence as a seed, invisibly planted in the ground. Active listening and sincere interest are resources that help conversation and ideas grow and eventually blossom.

EXERCISE:

How can you use the art of silence to enhance and grow your most important personal and professional relationships?

“Speak in such a way that others…”

“Speak in such a way that others love to listen to you. Listen in such a way that others love to speak to you.”

—Author Unknown

Image from beyond.com

Image from beyond.com

One thing I know for sure is that quality relationships result when our focus is on others rather than ourselves.

Being interested rather than interesting will channel your listening and speaking skills, to help you successfully navigate your professional and personal worlds.

EXERCISE:

Choose your words today, so that they resonate at the frequency others hear and appreciate.  How can you tune into the messages and signals of those around you, so that you fully honor and show how important they are to you?

“I remind myself every morning…”

“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”

—Larry King, American television and radio host

Image from Flickr by Ky Olsen

Image from Flickr by Ky Olsen

Have you ever considered why we have two ears and only one mouth? Why not one of each? Perhaps some higher power—not just Larry King—knew that listening is twice as valuable as speaking.

EXERCISE:

Practice using open-ended questions, including the all-powerful “What Else?” This follow-up & layering technique will help you speak less and learn more, at home and in your workplace.

 

“You can’t judge my choices…”

“You can’t judge my choices without understanding my reasons.”

—Author Unknown

 

Without question, judging others and being critical is one of the most common reasons people give when they talk about unsatisfying or destructive relationships.

Unfortunately, this happens daily to some degree, to most of us. A key reason for the universality of this behavior is our constant filtering. We look at the choices of others through our own perception of what is right or wrong, good or bad.

Being genuinely interested in another person’s points of view and seeking to fully understand their perspective lessens the level of judgement and creates greater relationship harmony.

EXERCISE:

Try this four-step exercise when interacting with others, to assist you in taking greater responsibility for making your relationships stronger.

  1. Be aware of your internal voice when listening to others, and notice if this voice is supportive or critical.
  2. Examine your listening. Can you mirror what the other person said and meant?
  3. Ask yourself: What is good and valuable in what they are saying?
  4. Limit your interruptions to those questions that will give you greater clarity and understanding.

“Most people do not listen with…”

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

—Stephen Covey, American educator, author, businessman, and keynote speaker

Photo from Flickr by  Webbstjarnan.SE

Photo from Flickr by Webbstjarnan.SE

Rate yourself on a scale from one to ten, with “one” being very poor and “ten” being outstanding, with regard to your mastery of Stephen Covey’s 5th Habit of Highly Effective People:

First Seek to Understand, then to be Understood

Consider reducing your score by one point if you:

  • Pretend to listen
  • Selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation
  • Miss the meaning of what the person is saying
  • Listen with the intent to reply
  • Filter what is being said through your own life experiences and frame of reference
  • Prematurely decide if what is being said has value, before the speaker has finished

The behaviors listed above are often called autobiographical listening.

EXERCISE:

To gain true and deep understanding of another required empathetic listening. Add points to your score if you:

  • Give the speaker your undivided attention
  • Are open-minded and nonjudgmental
  • Observe and sense the emotions behind the words being used
  • Are quiet and allow some time for the other person to fully express their view. Open-ended questions may be helpful here to make sure you gain the full depth of their viewpoint
  • Follow clarifying questions with attempts to restate what you believe they said

“One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears – by listening to them.”

“One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears – by listening to them.”

-– Dean Rusk, United States Secretary of State

Image from Flickr by Travis Isaacs

Image from Flickr by Travis Isaacs

The best salesmen in the world have a number of things in common. They are exceptional listeners. They listen more than they talk. They are far more focused on being interested versus interesting. They honor what others say and make sure that others have plenty of time to express their thoughts and opinions.

How do these qualities help salesmen (and people in general) be more persuasive? Consider the art of listening as a form of verbal judo, where the thoughts and ideas expressed by those we listen to closely are points of leverage that allow us to move them in a direction that fits with their own commitments and desires.

Exercise:

How can using your ears and becoming a masterful listener help you influence and persuade others in your professional or personal life?

Consider picking up a copy of any of the following books to enhance your mastery of this important skill:
To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink
Just Listen by Mark Goulston
Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson and others

You can also download a free copy of my workbook on Masterful Relationships
(Enter the password barrydemp (all lower case))

Lastly, you can read past Quotable Coach posts on relationships and listening.

“To seduce almost anyone, ask for and listen to his opinion.”

“To seduce almost anyone, ask for and listen to his opinion.”

– Malcolm Forbes, publisher of Forbes magazine

When I conduct my individual and organizational personal excellence workshops, a key tool I share with participants is the Communications Toolbox. This includes six simple techniques that emphasize the importance of demonstrating sincere interest and truly listening to others.

Others’ thoughts, ideas, and opinions on any subject happen to be the key to unlock our ability to influence them. This ability to tune into others’ fundamental human frequency is like finding a perfectly tailored pair of gloves that fit our hands just right.

Exercise:

Respond to this email and write the words “Communication Toolbox” in the subject line, and I will send you a copy.

Two books that I find useful on this subject are Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott and Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson and others.

If we only listened with the same passion that we feel about being heard

“If we only listened with the same passion that we feel about being heard.”

– Harriet Lerner, author and psychologist

My experience in the business of coaching and 30+ years of marriage has proved this key to success. Lerner refers to being “others-focused” rather than “self-focused.” Being sincerely interested in others and generously listening so that they can fully express themselves are fundamental to building quality relationships, and lead to a successful life.

Exercise:

When you are listening to others with great passion and focus, imagine that money is coming right out of their mouths, and that your job is to capture the full value of what they have to say and contribute.

You can take this quote to the bank. 🙂 !

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”

—Proverbs 12:15, The Bible

Image of a man listening with ear buds

Photo from Unsplash by Alex Blăjan

Have you ever had someone say, “I know” when you share something with them? Doesn’t that just drive you crazy?

Or, worse, how often do others interrupt you to fill in the remainder of what they were expecting you to say?

Both of these situations indicate that others are not listening – or that they’re simply far more interested in listening to their own favorite subject: themselves.

When we fully listen to others and truly consider their ideas, we expand our world view beyond our individual perspectives.

Exercise:

Where in your life can you develop greater wisdom, by listening more fully to others?