Sorry? I didn’t catch that…

I have always been told that I am a good listener. Friends, family, acquaintances, and perfect strangers confide in me, even without encouragement on my part. I seem to have a natural ability to create a space where people feel comfortable in bearing their souls and sharing their thoughts. And I have never stopped seeing that as an incredible privilege.

And to me, with privilege comes responsibility, and I take that responsibility extremely seriously. So I realised that if I were to be given the gift of confidence from those I encounter, it is essential that I learn more about communication and how
to be really, really good at it!

When considering communication, we often jump straight into speaking – how can we make ourselves heard and understood by those around us? But to me, that is the second stelisten to peoplep. To me, we can’t possibly expect to be heard until we have a deep understanding of how to listen.

There is an old saying that we have two ears and only one mouth, and yet we spend more time blabbing away than we do listening.

What are our intentions as we listen to others? They usually fall in one of four categories. We listen and at the same time think about our response – what we have to say about that. We evaluate or judge the conversation and create an opinion on that. We probe so that we can slot it into a frame of reference that suits us. Or, we give advice based on our own experiences.

But if you were to really look at the above intentions, you will notice that they all have something in common. They all have everything to do with us and very little to do with the person speaking.

So how can we give this gift to others in our lives? How can we shift our focus from ourselves onto the person to whom we are listening?

What if we simply changed our intention, with consciousness, with volition – and simply listened for the purpose of understanding? Not understanding in the context of what WE know or think or believe, but understanding in theirs. How can we possibly be in the position to respond, judge, probe or advise if we haven’t committed to gaining a real understanding?

The bottom line is that deep listening is risky business. It forces you to have an open mind, it allows you to open yourself to be influenced by others and it requires you to be OK with actually taking on board what you are hearing. This may mean that what you were thinking may not be the only answer. This may mean you need to reconsider your ideas. It may result in you having to (gasp!) stretch your own perspective to truly take on another.

So why is this so important? Because if your people, be it in your business or personal life, are not confident that they will be listened to, they will quickly lose trust in you. This can mean broken relationships, a team that has no drive, a divided family, and ultimately, a lack of connection with others.

I can’t count the number of times that I have known that my listener wasn’t listening. That feeling of insignificance, of not being worthy enough to be heard. As a coach, wife, parent, and friend, I am committed to being a person who knows the importance of throwing my ego to the side and being present to those who need to be heard more than I need to speak. I am committed to listening with generosity and curiosity, not judgement or righteousness.

Are you?

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