24 August 2010

How To Listen

In my work with people, I have noticed the same theme keeps showing up irrespective of the particular content or person or group.

Lately this theme has been: “He/she/they are not listening to me!” When I explore further I usually find someone who is not happy with the response/feedback being elicited about a particular issue, usually with a high emotional trigger and sticky attachment to a particular outcome. Unfortunately, this dynamic never works to produce a result that anyone wants!

So what’s really going on when it comes to being listened to? What has it got to do with listening? And why is it that some people seem to listen and some people don’t? Well the key is in two simple questions: What are you actually listening to? And how do you expect the other/s to respond?

Believe it or not, it all starts and ends with you. If you are attached to a particular outcome then chances are you are “listening” to the agenda running in your head, your feelings about it all and what you will say in response to their (inevitable) reaction. When this is what you are doing internally, then there is not much being there with the other person or people, not much (if any) paying attention to the whole of what’s going, not much real awareness or connection with the whole. When you are focussed on getting a particular outcome (and ONLY that outcome) then you miss critical pieces of information in the communication. And when that happens, you cannot respond fully to what’s going on because you are only seeing/hearing/feeling part of the whole.

If you want people to listen to you, first you need to be responsible for what you are listening to - internally and externally. Let the other know the response you want from them and then listen to what comes back. If you elicit a response (usually a reaction) you do not like, ask what the person has “heard” (i.e. what meaning they have put on your communication) and then state explicitly what you mean.

Say what you mean, ask what the other means and keep responding until the communication is complete. When you begin to change your own dynamic around listening you will discover that more and more people seem to be listening!

"Who you are is shouting so loud that I can’t hear what you are saying."

Stephen Covey

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