Let’s Talk About Listening

Most of us think we are better listeners than we really are! Listening is a gift to others, yet we are often not generous with this gift. Often, we are guilty of “automatic listening” vs. being purposeful and present in how we pay attention to others.

What is automatic listening? 

Automatic listening occurs, well, automatically, when we aren’t even conscious about how we are listening. Today I would like to make you more conscious about the ways you engage in automatic listening every day and may not even know it. Consider the following 8 types of automatic listening.  How many are you guilty of doing?

  1. Right/wrong or win/lose – Sometimes when another person is communicating, we automatically jump to thoughts like “that’s not right” or “that’s the wrong idea” before the person has even gotten a few sentences going.  We also can get positional and listen like we’ve got something to win or lose.
  2. Validation – Sometimes we listen only to hear if the other person is validating our point of view.
  3. What’s in it for me?  The focus is on “me” and not what the other person is saying.
  4. Already Listening: No possibility – When we operate from an “already listening” mode, we have already decided before letting the other person fully express him or herself.  Usually, we have “shut down” and are not open to the other person’s ideas.
  5. What’s the point? I’ll admit, sometimes people take a while to get to the point they are trying to make. Often we tune out before they get there.
  6. The fatal flaw– Sometimes we listen like we are trying to catch the other person in a “fatal flaw”. Similar to “no possibility”.
  7.  My response –  We give visual cues like we are listening, but we are in our own head about what we want to say next.
  8. Out to lunch – It’s like we just “turned down the volume” on the person talking and started thinking about something else – whether it’s what we want for lunch, our next appointment or something else.

Even though you may currently be guilty of a host of “automatic listening” sins, you can re-train yourself to be a different kind of listener – one that truly offers the gift of being present and listening in ways that generate new possibilities – for both you and the person speaking.

Replace Automatic Listening with “Generative” Listening

 “Generative” listening is a way to listen where we, as listeners, consciously replace “automatic listening” by intentionally “listening for” such things as:

  • Mutual appreciation and respect
  • How to make a difference to the person communicating
  • A shared understanding
  • How to be responsible
  • Solutions
  • Contribution
  • Collaboration
  • Commitment
  • Alignment
  • Another’s reality/perspective

When we “listen for” these things, we shift the focus from ourselves and we can be truly present to our relationship with the person who is speaking.  One of the best acknowledgments you could receive from a friend, colleague, co-worker or employee would be for him/her to say, “I  really felt you listened” or “I really felt heard”.

As Henry Ford once said, “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as our own.”  Take the time to shift your listening and you will reap the rewards of more satisfying relationships.