I have recently been on a mission to work on improving quality of communication for myself as well as my clients.
I have been struck by some common patterns of how communication, especially its listening component, happens. Here are some of my observations that I’d like to share with you:
1. I noticed that I hardly met any human ‘beings’; most of them were human ‘doings’ – they were busy doing tasks all the time! Because they were busy doing things, it was hard to connect at a deeper level or have a real conversation; to have a real conversation both the parties have got to be fully present and not just physically present.
2. Was I surprised how often personal questions were being asked but the person asking them was not really available to receive the response? People were in general distracted and busy with their busyness.
Now I am not suggesting that people should leave all their tasks aside to engage in conversations but I definitely see an opportunity to listen better. Better listening will most definitely lead to more effective communications.
Here are some of the things we can do to listen better:
1. Listen with the attitude that the person talking to you is the most important and interesting person in the world. If we consider our chores more important than what they are saying, obviously we would pay attention to the former. Instead, if you believe that you are talking to the most important and interesting person, you would listen to them. When we do that, the other person feels seen and heard.
2. Have unconditional positive regard for the person talking to you: Pardon me for directly picking up this phrase from the coaching literature (Rogers, 1951) but it is something that could be useful for everyone. When we have unconditional positive regard for someone, we do not judge them and in the absence of judgment, we listen and connect better.
3. Notice the level at which you are listening (based on my interpretations of listening described in the book Co-Active Coaching by Laura Whitworth). Are you at:
(a) Level 1: Here you listen to your own thoughts and judgments. We hear what the other person is saying but are concerned with what that means to us. Ever been in an interview where you were busy preparing your response while the interviewer talked instead of fully listening to them?
(b) Level 2: Here you focus on what the other person is saying: This is definitely a huge improvement over level 1 because it is not all about you. Here you are looking at things from the other person’s perspective.
(c) Level 3: Here you are dancing in the moment with the other person. You take in their words, their emotions and utilise all of your senses. The awareness is high and the intuition deep – you really getwhat the other person is sharing. I experienced this in one of my business meetings recently and it was magical. I do believe that because we were dancing in the moment, we were able to connect better and achieve more than we would have otherwise.
4. When you are spending time with someone, be fully present. It can be challenging to implement this all the time, especially in the beginning of your ‘listen better’ practice and with people we live with or meet often, so consider keeping some time aside when all you would do is be fully present with them. Even if it is just five minutes a day, make an effort to listen to them actively.
Implement these ideas and let me know how you get on. Happy listening!
Whilst ‘seeing’ and ‘hearing’ other people, do you need help feeling seen and heard yourself?