Are you listening?

The phone thing last week really hit a nerve and I know it sparked some changes which is great, but where to from there? Being present with each person and each situation is not necessarily an easy or natural thing. You know the great quote:

"Most people don't listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply"

You know that wonderful feeling when someone 'gets' you and you think 'at last...someone understands'! This is an amazing feeling to be able to give to someone and creates a positive chain reaction that I don't believe we truly appreciate.

So how do you do it? What is it that gives that incredible feeling to others so that they get this whack of joy and you get to learn something new?

A good place to start is some rapport building steps. Make and maintain eye contact (not 100% constant as you'll freak them out a little), face the person (or stand side by side - for some people face to face is too much), being at the same level (so sit down, or stand up - I'd even say re-adjust your chair if you can). This all shows you are ready and want to listen.

The concept of listening to understand rather than reply, are captured in Steven Covey's Seven Habits of High Effective People. Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This idea of emphatic listening is a shift from wanting to explain yourself and your point of view to understanding the issue, topic, or what's going on from the other persons point of view.

For a summary of this habit take a look at this video . For another summary this website explains the levels of listening

How good a listener are you already? When you have some idea of this, then you can work on areas to improve. Take this MindTool quiz to get a bit more insight into your current listening skills.

"You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time" - M. Scott. Peck

My learning has been to stop giving examples from my experiences - saying things like - 'oh yes, that happened to me' or 'just like when I......'. Rather I mirror back what I am hearing and probe by asking questions to understand more about the situation and how it has effected the person talking to me. We all deal with and react to similar situations differently, and just because I felt or did something does not mean that the other person will experience it in the same way. I believe we deflect from the person talking and what they want to share, celebrate or off load. There is always the time to give advice but I don't believe this should be your first step response.

"The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said "- Peter Drucker

"If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk" - Robert Baden-Powell

Katie Quinney