We all think that we listen, but how often do we find ourselves having a conversation with a partner, colleague or friend and filling in the gaps, finishing their sentences, doing something else while we are listening and generally paying scant attention to what is being said?
There are three levels of listening:
Here the attention is about ourselves. We will be preparing a response to what we are hearing based on our own feelings on the topic. We are potentially judging the other person or content, in line with our own view of the world. We may be interrupting or talking over the top of the other person. This is the most common form of listening and has no place in coaching.
Here all of the listening is focussed on the other person. It involves absolute, present, listening without any focus on external stimuli or judgement or relating the content to your own views. It includes listening to the words, expressions, body language and emotions of the other person, picking up their values, vision, emotions and energy levels.
Here we are using all of our senses to observe everything around the other person. We rely upon intuition and ‘sixth sense’ to pick up messages. It is important to check back with the other person that what you have picked up is correct, by reflecting it back to them and asking – is that right ? This level of listening generates great report and enable the other person to deeply communicate with the listener.
Good coaches will operate at Level 2 and Level 3 and learning how to do so is the skill.
Try this exercise and see the results that you get!
Clear your mind of your own thoughts to become present in the conversation and free to listen deeply. Don’t make any mental notes of what you hear or any judgements which will disturb the true focus. Don’t speak and simply listen uninterruptedly to the other person. Then once they have said their piece, say, ‘I am going to relay back to you what I have just heard’ and do so in your own words and everything that you remember. Then ask, ‘did I hear that correctly?’
Chances are that the other person will be delighted and possibly really surprised to have been listened to and understood, and rapport with that individual will be improved. You will probably have enjoyed the exercise too!
Dr Stephen R Covey said:
‘Empathetic Listening is so powerful because it gives you accurate data to work with instead of projecting your own autobiography and assuming thoughts, feelings, motives and interpretation, you’re dealing with the reality inside another persons head and heart. You’re listening to understand. You’re focussed on receiving the deep communication of another human soul’.
Try deep listening and see how it works for you!
Listening is a skill that is easily developed through coaching!