When we’re busy or in a hurry, it’s tempting to only give ‘half an ear’ to the person talking to us. The results can be discouraging – to both parties.
Recently I was talking with a group of business owners and one of them spoke of her challenge to have an employee follow seemingly simple instructions. A gentleman quipped it was same with his teenager.
Both wondered why some people’s first reaction seemed always to be resistance. I wondered if it was due to something else and asked if it was possible these people just wanted to be heard. Perhaps they had something to contribute or a different point of view on the best way or time a task could be done.
The teenager’s father started to disagree, then hesitated. A look of sudden realisation crossed his face and he turned to me and quietly said “I think you’re right.”
Everyone Likes to Feel Heard
It’s easy to be so focused on what we’re doing, or the task we’re giving to another, that we only half listen when the other person comments or worse, objects. We believe our instructions are clear, even obvious, so why does the other person have to question them?
Most of us are juggling very full schedules and our minds like to run ahead before we’ve fully finished the current task. It’s frustrating and time-consuming to have to always pause and check our words are understood, or to ask if there’s a reason our instructions can’t be implemented in the manner we think they should.
And if we do wait while the other replies, we may well be thinking about ways to validate our position and prove we’re right, to make the other person agree.
One of the essentials of Conversational Intelligence is the ability to listen to connect and understand another’s reality without judgement. You may think you always do this, but ask yourself “Has there ever been a time when I thought something was a certain way only to find out later it wasn’t?”
We make assumptions, jump to incorrect conclusions
When things don’t quite make sense to us, when we don’t know all the facts or the reasons for a person’s comments or actions, we tend to make up stories in our heads based on our assumptions. We jump to conclusions to fill in the missing facts.
Our brains like to have a reason for what it observes, and if that reason isn’t known or obvious, we make one up. It’s this habit of making up stories to fill in missing information that gives rise to most of our conflicts.
And too often we don’t hear what is actually being said because we’re thinking about our opinions of the speaker and what we think they are saying.
Focused Listening Creates Safety
When we truly listen to connect, we create an environment that’s safe for open and authentic communication. The focus is on getting the facts rather than jumping to conclusions.
Safe environments allow us to trust each other and share what’s on our mind. We listen to all points of view with curiosity and non-judgement. We’re more open to share our difficulties and challenges as well as our ideas without feeling intimidated or threatened.
Safe environments also give us the space to change our ideas or perceptions based on new information or contrary evidence. It’s easier to find common ground and form agreements.
Benefits of Listening to Connect
The benefits of deep listening can be subtle and surprising, and always of value. Here are just three:
- Listening to connect allows us to more easily handle stress by managing tricky situations calmly and diplomatically.
- When people listen to connect they are also more open to candid feedback and willing to use it to improve.
- When we feel connected we’re also better prepared to move forward in the face of uncertainty and to approach problems with humour rather than sarcasm or judgement.
If you’re a daring leader and want to take your relationships to the next level, spend the next 30 days focusing on being wholly present and listening to others – colleagues, customers, employees, friends and family.
For the moment, put aside your judgement and listen to understand the matter from their view. Look through their window.
I guarantee you will experience a difference!
And don’t forget to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.