The Power of True Listening
True listening is a gift. You know that feeling when someone really listens to you and you feel seen, empowered and uplifted? Why don’t we do this all the time?
So often we get caught in hearing what people say, instead of truly listening.
When someone approaches you with a problem, it can feel like true listening takes too much time in a busy day; that is however not necessarily the case. What true listening requires though, is slowing down. We need to focus and be interested in what the other person is saying. It demands that we are present to the one we are listening to and that we have presence within ourselves. By truly listening we empower others, and we can avoid confusion and misunderstandings, something that is not a time saver in any way.
Practice listening with openness and curiosity
Too often we listen to what we think people might say or to a hidden agenda we assume is there. Something they say might send us on a journey inside our own mind recalling how something similar happened to us. We will want to share our story and hey! suddenly it is about us, not about them.
With good intentions, we offer help in the shape of advice and tell people what to do. We know it worked for us, so why would it not work for others? It could also be that we want to cut the story short. Impatience is not the best listening companion…
True listening is not about what we think people will say, nor is it listening for a hidden agenda we might think they have. Neither is it to look for a pause in the conversation so that we can jump in with our great ideas, stories, and opinions.
Practice listening with openness and curiosity. Practice listening to what is beyond the words. What signals or clues are being conveyed as the other person talks? What emotions come up in you while you listen? Where is your focus?
When we truly listen to others they feel seen, respected and valued
- Put judgment, competition, and biases aside and open your heart and mind to what is being communicated.
- Self-manage emotions and thoughts that might surface in you. Focus your attention on the other person and assume good intent.
- Decide to see their brilliance.
- Assume that this person wants the best possible outcome and then get curious about how you can help and support by guiding them in the right direction, not on your terms and in ways that work for you, but in ways that work for them.
The only way to find out what that might be is to listen with an open, curious and judgment-free mind. Then at the right time ask, “what do you need?”, “what will help you move forward and gain momentum?” and, a more powerful and provocative question, “Who do you need to be to …?”
When we truly listen to others they feel seen, respected and valued. This is invaluable. The positive ripple effect can be huge!
Many leaders I work with initially say they do not have time to listen this way. When they experience that it does not really take more time, but that it actually saves them time in the long run, they are often surprised.
It takes presence and willingness to see someone else and step into the power of true listening. It requires us to slow down a bit, check in and ask ourselves:
How does my own story about the other person shape the way I am listening?
What do I need to listen for to support and help others grow?
Who do I want to be when I meet people today?
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