First we need to unpack the word "Listening".
Is it just to "Hear"? Or does "Pay attention" and "Be attentive" describe it better?
There are many synonyms in the dictionary suggesting that there is more to it than just the sound. It seems that most of these synonyms, where listening is important, suggest that there is a reason for doing so.
Then why is it so hard to get people to listen?
Yes! I agree too.
You're talking to someone trying to share something important and you've barely started to make your point and already they want to interrupt you. You can see it in their eyes, and it does interrupt you, because their face is not that of someone listening, it's that of someone wanting to speak.
When the brain is constructing what to say, it is no longer fully engaged in listening. So, you shoud stop talking, because they've stopped listening. An occasional word, here and there, slips between the process of their mind constructing what to say, only to include some more thoughts and distractions about what they want to say.
It's pointless. They are not listening.
You start to explain something and the person is nodding their head in agreement, although you haven't said much yet. You continue with your point and they do the same, nodding in agreement. You pause for a moment and they share some of their thoughts. Wow! You think. They actually understood what I was saying. They share valuable confirmation. Maybe a story or metaphor that is aligned with your explanation.
You walk away, and minutes later they exhibit a behavior that is contrary to what you just discussed to which they had agreed. What happened? Did they forget all that?
You are asked to help explain something, and you commence your process of divulging what you know. When you're finished, the person says "thanks" and walks away. They didn't hear anything you said. So, again, What happened?
Here are some of the things that happened:
• You triggered a thought and at that moment their mind wondered and was no longer present or engaged in the listening.
• When their mind disagrees with what you are saying, it instantly refutes everything that comes after that. They stopped listening. We call this "When judging we are not listening."
• While they were demonstrated their agreement by nodding, they never actually considered this information relevant to them. It only applied to others. "These rules don't apply to me, they apply to others."
• They find the information fascinating and exciting to learn, just don't know how to apply it for themselves.
What's your experience like?
Do you find yourself guilty of doing the same? Or are you a perfect listener?
What would it look like, or sound like if someone was a perfect listener?
Here is what it might look and sound like if someone is actually paying attention:
As you explain what you want to share, they are nodding, maybe taking notes. When you pause they have a few questions to help them clarify their understanding. Maybe they paraphrase incorrectly , so you help them get further clarity. Finally they discuss a plan of implementation. You again confirm and adjust their strategy with them.
They were genuinely curious.
At the end of the conversation, you not only feel heard, you also feel like they understood and will engage in what they learned. They may even come back to you once or twice to make sure they are on the right path with what they are doing and how they are implementing what you discussed. Creating a level of accountability back to you, even though you didn't ask for it.
Isn't that a huge WOW?
Wouldn't you love that?
So, what happened and how can you put this in place for all your conversations?
Sorry to say this: You can't.
What you need to do is agree on what it means to "listen".
What does it look like, and how should someone respond and act.
These are behaviors that can be taught and easily learned.
With practice these can also become the "Norm" for you and for them.
Most people consider good listening as Highly Respectful.
How respectful are you with your listening?
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Nagui is an entrepreneur, public speaker and thought leader on Behavior in the workplace. As founder of AccuMatch the neural map of individual and team behaviors in the workplace and creator of Behavior Intelligence coaching to transform culture and inspire positive action and collaboration.
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