Since last month I wrote about speaking so that you will actually be heard, this month I thought we'd look at the other side of the picture, which is how well you really listen. What you discover will be alarming at best - it certainly was for me!
During our coaches training we had to sit knee to knee across from another person for one minute. During this time only one person was allowed to speak. The other person was not allowed to say a word or make a gesture. Doesn't sound too hard does it? Well, I challenge each of you to try it yourself.
You learn how your mind races because while they are talking you want to interrupt to tell them a story about yourself that relates, ask a question or are thinking about whether you left the iron on and so forth. We are rarely present in conversations.
First of all our ego jumps in and wants to tell them about ourselves and how it relates. You are not really listening and instead you are thinking about what you want to say. Then we are thinking about the question we want to ask or what we want to do next. You are not listening. Our mind is wandering about our day, what time is our next meal, what will we eat, or maybe what our spouse is doing, etc. You are not listening.
Do you remember what it's like to be on the other side, talking and that feeling of not being heard? It's awful, rather embarrassing and makes us feel very unimportant. We begin to wonder why we bother to talk to these people. Yet, it is the state of how most of us communicate.
It takes great self control to shut up and truly listen to the person talking to you. Blocking out the rest of the world and truly being present in that moment is one of the biggest gifts you can give someone else that is speaking. Connect to that moment; watch their body language, their eyes, and their expressions, and what they are not telling you. Keep your opinions out of it; they did not ask for them!
When I first learned that I was even behaving in a rude way as a listener, I had to look for ways to remind myself to shut up and just be with the person speaking. It took work to open my mind to hear. I practiced this at home by putting on a hat that I called my listening hat. When I had that hat on, I had to sit still and just listen. I cleared my mind and sat forward so that I could be the good friend and listener that I always thought I was.
Think of all the meetings you have attended where someone raises their hand to ask a question and the subject had already been covered. The person disrupts the whole agenda, ends up looking like an idiot and generally irritates everyone in the room. They were not listening.
We spend more time thinking about what we should or want to say than listening to what is really going on. Trust me, if it is important you will remember what you want to say later. If you are actually listening, when the person is finished speaking different questions will occur for you to ask that are much deeper and important. Relax and stop making it about you!
What do you need to change to let yourself completely show up to a conversation willing to give the gift of listening? What are you missing in life by not paying complete attention to a conversation?
As a business woman I have gotten so much more information from clients because I paid attention and asked more informed questions afterwards. Think about your family and friends; how often have you not heard that they were really hurting and trying to tell you? Being a good listener is not easy it takes practice. Are you willing to step up and really do it? All it takes is practicing once a day to notice the difference. What have you got to lose?
Sherry L. Ray, CPCC is a national speaker, international business/life coach, and a Reiki Master/Teacher. She can be reached thru her website www.yellyeehaw.com or by phone at (303) 796-9066