“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
As we continue on our journey of self-mastery arriving this week at the topic of Dynamic Communication, it’s fitting that I had a personal experience recently that neatly demonstrates the principle.
A few weeks ago I was on a business trip to the US and I took the opportunity to stop by and visit an old friend whose been living there for 6 years. We’ve both been going through a lot of change in our lives this past 18 months, so our communication has been rather limited. That being the case, I was super excited to see her, reconnect and share our respective experiences and insights.
I asked her all about her life and listened attentively about her new job, her new apartment, her new friends and where she saw her life going. Rather jarringly, she seemed to ask me relatively little about my own life. It got particularly weird when I found myself uncomfortably and awkwardly volunteering information about myself in the absence of being asked.
I also couldn’t help but notice just how often her mobile phone, instant messaging apps, Facebook chat and countless other gizmos seemed to interrupt our flow, or worse, monopolise her attention and dampen our connection.
I remember walking away acutely aware of how lonely I felt even when I was in her company; it was sad given that she had been one of my closest friends.
It was at the moment of leaving her that I realized that communication isn’t just something that we do or hear, it’s something that we feel.
So listen up, because……
LISTENING, rather than talking, is the most important aspect of communication.
It is through the skill of listening that we learn and grow and yet, it’s ironic that so few people do it and even fewer do it well. Yet having someone really listen to what you are saying is a profound experience. It is in those moments of true listening where rapport is built, trust is established, buy-in is enabled, conflict is resolved and real potential for success is created.
Good listeners understand that people reveal themselves through conversation.
Listening to other helps us to understand their perspective, their concerns, their ideas and their needs. With this knowledge and awareness someone is able to connect with a speaker, engage with them, shift their energy and inspire them to success. Put plainly, that’s why coaches get paid the big bucks.
At iPEC we talk about there being 3 levels of listening:
- Subjective Listening
- Objective Listening
- Intuitive Listening
Whilst it’s inevitable that we’ll engage in all 3 levels at points throughout our day, bringing awareness to it will help you to spot the level that’s present in your conversations, understand why certainly feelings might be being triggered and take steps to deepen your experience.
In this level, listening is based on the agenda or the needs of the listener. Whatever is said is heard through the experiences of the listener and/or how it relates to them and their life. These are typically fall into two categories: the “Me too!!”s and the “Jumper In-ner”s . As you’ll no doubt have noticed, it rarely satisfies the person who is speaking and yet everyday listening is usually subjective.
e.g. Speaker: “I’m really upset about the fact my boyfriend hasn’t called after his interview today.”
Subjective Response: “Yeah, my boyfriend is really rubbish at keeping me in the loop too.”
Objective listening is more effective in that the listener is completely focussed on the person who is speaking. There are no thoughts about how any of the information relates personally or professionally to the listener and can often be characterized by mirroring back what the speaker has said. Some coaches use this technique to demonstrate that they have heard their client. This level is effective, but does not get to the “heart” of the matter. Still, listening at the level will dramatically improve communication.
Speaker: “I’m really upset about the fact my boyfriend hasn’t called after his interview today.”
Objective Response: “It seems like you’re disappointed at the fact your boyfriend hasn’t called you after his interview today.”
When you meet someone who has developed the ability/skill of intuitive listening, you’ll sense it. At this level, the listener is hearing all the sensory components: the speaker’s tone of voice, energy level, feelings etc. The listener is paying attention to not only what the speaker is saying, but also to what’s NOT being said. Intuitive listening is hearing “between the lines” and tuning into the speaker’s real message. Intuitive listening is achieved through adopting “a beginners mind” by simply suspending your judgments and staying present in the moment. It is the most powerful form of listening and allows the listener to really connect with the speaker.
Speaker: “I’m really upset about the fact my boyfriend hasn’t called after his interview today. I want to know that everything went ok”
Intuitive Response: “It sounds like you really care about your boyfriend and how this interview goes. Given that you clearly care, it makes total sense why you might be feeling a little concerned having not heard from him as yet.”
So before next week why not try out some effective listening?:
- Start by being curious about other people, asking them open-ended questions to get them talking;
- Give objective listening a go by acknowledging or paraphrasing what the other person is saying; and
- Occasionally try listening intuitively by suspending your judgments, staying present in the moment and adopting “a beginners mind”.
- You’ll know you’re doing it if you find yourself excited about what you are about to learn.
Until next time I invite you to check out our Facebook page to learn more about ways you can cultivate your self-awareness, communication and increase your level of consciousness. Stay tuned for the next post on becoming Your Ideal Communicator.