Listening at the level described here is a discipline and an art that will pay big dividends in your relationships and in your enrollment and sales efforts. When you practice this, you will provide people around you with a gift that they have rarely been given in their lifetime.
The Gift of Listening is simply listening with a commitment to
hear exactly what another person is saying. Hearing what they are intending to
say but are not, even hearing what they are purposely not saying. More
importantly, it is hearing what the other person is feeling their words
being an attempt at expressing those feelings. You may be feeling scared or mad
or sad or happy. The artful listener will feel what it is you feel and let you
know the communication has landed.
You have all heard the clich about why humans have two ears and only one mouth. The level at which I intend to encourage you to listen here would require that clich was updated to a ratio of four or five ears to one mouth. If you think about how easy it is to offend someone with your mouth and how impossible it is to offend someone with your ears well, you get the point.
Listening at this level requires first and foremost a commitment to source the other person. This is an emotional and spiritual gift. You must be willing to give the other person the validation, acknowledgment and esteem they are seeking.
Think about what really happens when two people come together in
a conversation. They could be talking about the weather, sports, politics,
business or simply what they did last weekend. Each person comes to the
conversation with an unconscious addiction to being heard. They want the
other person to hear their point, their story, their opinion, their accomplishments,
and their feelings on the subject. They are usually politely persistent, and
they want the last word. Imagine what it looks like, sounds like and feels like
to have these two agendas collide. Neither person is heard; neither is
validated. Feelings are hurt or, at best, not nurtured. The result is an
emotional train wreck. Empowerment, self-esteem, friendship, relationship and
love are overlooked.
Giving the Gift of Listening starts with you setting aside, for the moment, your agenda to be sourced in a conversation. Just make the commitment at the beginning of the conversation to have it be all about the other person. You do not have to do this in every conversation, just the ones where your goal is for the other person to walk away feeling better about themselves than before they spoke to you. Funny, but in every case they will also feel better about you much better than if you tried to create the same feelings by making the conversation all about you.
The second thing you must to do to listen at this level is to start listening with your body, your heart and your intuition, instead of your mind. The superficial way you and I were taught in school to listen is with our conscious mind. That is the part of our mind that discerns between right and wrong, hot and cold, good and bad. It is the part of us that has formed opinions on everything we have ever heard, read, experienced or just thought about. Most of us go through life managing our affairs with all the information and opinions we have amassed in our conscious mind.
When using your conscious mind to listen, the result looks like an argument or a competition, or that you just plain arent interested. I tell you about my weather and you respond by telling me about yours. The thing is, I dont care about your weather and you dont care about mine. I tell you what I did this weekend and you think doing that is a waste of time. I tell you I think so-and-so should have done things this way and you disagree, if not verbally at least that is what you are thinking and how you are listening.
There are other parts of you designed for far superior listening. Your body actually listens. It feels impressions of whether things said are true or false, authentic or contrived. It uses your emotions, your intuition, your unconscious mind all wrapped up in a spiritual self that, given the opportunity, can really hear the entire message. Again, it is hearing what is said, what is intended to be said, what is not said, and what is felt.
To give yourself the opportunity to listen with these tools you must have a clear intention to use them and not use your conscious mind. You accomplish this by agreeing to source the other person. To do this you will want to quiet your mind. Listen from a clean slate. Wipe clean your opinions about this person. Wipe clean from your thoughts what you want out of this conversation, other than to completely and fully be there for this person. Wipe clean the mindless chatter that keeps you from being fully present in this moment for this person and for what they want you to hear. This means if you hear your mind commenting on what the other person is saying you stop yourself and recommit represence yourself. Do this throughout the conversation as often as you need to, in order to stay present.
The third step to the Gift of Listening is to take a look at what is referred to as your habitual listening or your already, always listening. There are usually only a few. Each of us has at least one we use to filter conversations.
Identify your Habitual Listenings and practice recognizing when
they are in play. Knowing about them and being willing to shut them off is half
Here are some new Empowering Habitual Listenings you may replace them with:
The fourth step is to ask Hunch Led Questions. During these kinds of conversations you will feel questions that might be asked, either for clarification or to further the conversation down a path. Hunch Led Questions need to be asked. Asking them will enrich the conversation. They are questions almost begging to be asked. They are, however, different from questions that you think up with your conscious mind.
The difference with Mind Questions is that they will have
an agenda to them. Mind Questions think they already know the answer and want
to show they are right. Mind Questions have opinions behind them. Mind
Questions have been thought out. If you find yourself entertaining any question
that smells like this, do not ask it. If you find yourself with a Hunch
Question ask it, even if you think it is too intrusive, too bold, or none of
your business. If it is a Hunch Question, it is begging to be asked.
Listening at this level may seem like it takes a lot of energy and time. It may and it may not, depending on the person and topic. You can apply this level of listening to a 30-second conversation or a three-hour one. Either way you will provide the other person with an extraordinary experience.
The single most impactful word that describes what is accomplished here is honoring another person. This is truly a spiritual experience for people, along the lines of unconditional love. Honoring people at this level is probably not something anyone has done for them since they were in the formative years with Mom and Dad, or the romance months of a new love. Applying that level of listening to any relationship, whether business or pleasure, will expand your horizons tenfold. You will have people wanting to be in your presencefor no other reason than they find you interesting and they feel better about themselves when they are with you.
Although a lot of what is offered here may not have been used in the following story, it is a great testimony to the power of listening:
Be the Most Interesting Person They Have Ever Met
Decades ago the editors of Psychology Today magazine staged an experiment to establish the effects of listening and asking easy, probing questions. Staff members flew to LAX from New York. The editor flew in later and on his flight created the intention of meeting his seatmate and getting to know him on the five-hour flight. For the duration of the flight the Psychology Today editor asked questions and listened. He asked more questions based on what he felt his seatmate wanted to talk more about and avoided areas he felt he didnt. His total purpose for being during the five hours was to have the time be all about his seatmate.
As suspected, throughout the flight the seatmate never asked anything about the editor, not even his name.
As the seatmate disembarked the plane the staff for Psychology Today was there to interview him. They simply asked him what he thought about the man seated next to him on the flight (the Psychology Today editor, whose name he did not even know). He responded: He was the most interesting man I have ever met.
Moral of the story: Being interesting may have nothing to do with your deeds, your opinions or your stories, but rather your interest in others.
In my brief 28 years of being in the supercharged people business I have seen clearly that we spend most of our waking moments in an addictive unconscious quest to be known, honored and loved. We need to be trusted, admired and respected as well. We go to great lengths to feed this addiction from the money we seek to earn, to the good deeds we make sure we get done, to the stories we tell of it all. Knowing how important it is to all of us, imagine how unique a gift you can be to your ever-widening circle of influence by just giving it to them in every conversation. The gift of listening is the gift of healing.
Copyright 2005 by High Performance People, L.L.C.
Used with permission.