How do you listen?

Posted by Barb Jemmott on Thursday, February 06, 2014 with No comments

A challenge worth taking

When having a conversation with a new client recently, the conversation turned to how they felt the people he managed didn't seem to "gel" (using the clients' term), when working together to generate new ideas or during team discussions. As my client (the manager) continued his description, I thought about how he might hear what his people were saying - or not saying. I challenged him to listen more fully to people he interacted with, especially people outside of his normal work role. "Let's see" I urged, "See what you can learn from them, especially since you're not sure if they have anything to teach you".

When you are willing to listen there's an untold amount of knowledge, experience and perspective just waiting to be shared. From the person who serves you coffee in the morning to the colleague at work for whom we have neither patience nor time, to the three-year old just starting to figure out hot express their thoughts. Each one of these people has a view that can round out our own perspective and help us maneuver our way towards where we want to go.

If we're willing to listen, I mean really listen.

The Challenge

I challenged my client to commit to the following for the next week:

  • Make and keep up eye contact with the person they were speaking to
  • To focus on what the person was saying
  • "Walk a mile" in their shoes as they speak
  • Ask clarifying questions to make sure he understood what they were saying
  • Not to allow distractions from his devices (phone, text messaging, email, etc) during the time he spent interacting with another person
My client admitted to finding this exercise challenging, but also enlightening. "You were right," he begrudgingly shared with me "It was tough to do but it was rewarding. I learned more about myself and others than I would have thought. I met some really interesting people - who had perspectives and outlooks I couldn't have imagined."

Think about our greatest leaders. They know they don't have all the answers or all the great ideas. They know to listen to others for new ideas and possibilities, and they know that those ideas and possibilities can come from anywhere - from people at all levels and all walks of life. They have learned the skill of listening. The art of listening is a skill that includes respect for and interest in other people.

This type of listening creates and encourages trust and building trust-based relationships. If we want other people ready to share their expertise, knowledge and perspective, we must make a safe place for them to share. We can make this happen by really listening and allowing people to be heard. People who make us feel that we are the most important person in the world to them are those who truly listen to us. By really listening we give ourselves a great gift and a chance to learn and grow. You can't buy that.

Although my example came from the business world, where in your life could you listen more openly? pick three people you don't normally listen to (you know who they are), and really listen to them using the points outlined above. Try it for one week. Give them the opportunity to show you the value they have to offer.

photo credit: photo pin cc