Listening & learning

How well do you listen? Do you hear what others mean to say?  When I was staying with my sister earlier this year, I listened to her tell a story about our mother, and thought ‘who was that women she is talking about?’  It struck me how differently we all see and hear things.  My sister and I are a year apart, however we were quite different as kids, she loved sciences, I loved the arts.   We had the same parents, were brought up the same way, and yet how we received their messages and perhaps how they sent those messages to us, differed greatly.  I often puzzled as a child why I was treated differently, that was how I felt from the messages I received.  Whether I was, or was not, who’s to say, however the key is that I felt as if I was, and that was my reality for many years!

Listening is a skill!

Have you ever said something to someone, and then later found out that they heard something completely different?  Listening is an interesting skill and something we’re never really taught.  When I had a team working with me I used to say ‘Listen to what people say, check in to ensure what you hear is what they mean’.  My colleagues got tired of hearing me say this, but it is so important.

The Whispering Game

Did you ever try the ‘whispering game’?  A group sits in a circle and the first person turns to the next and whispers a sentence, this person then turns to the one on their other side and whispers the same message.  Once the message is passed quietly around the circle the last person says what they heard, aloud.  I’ve never heard the sentence from the beginning repeated at the end!  That’s because we interpret things differently, we hear one thing and then paraphrase it as we pass it on….

‘Listening to reply’

is a phrase I’ve heard and is a habit we all have. We’re in a conversation, and the other(s)  begin to speak.  Immediately we know we have something interesting to say, we have to tell the other person all about it.  So we focus on our response, on the point we want to make, without paying attention to the whole conversation and in doing so we often miss what the other person is trying to say.

Becoming a better listener

So how do you become a better listener?  I often suggest to clients that they count to 10 before they respond.  I also suggest if I have noticed that they are attached to their phones, to put their phone down, or in a pocket – get it out of the way. Then turn and listen with their whole being.

We all hear, and understand words differently, so paying attention to what another person is saying can give you great insight as to where they are coming from.  Pay attention not only to their words, but also their eye contact and body language.  Listen with your body, turn to them, make eye contact, nod/smile and let them know you are hearing them.  Let them finish, don’t interrupt, wait until they are done, repeat what they said to not only let them know that you heard, but also to ensure you received the right message.  Then add your thoughts and respond.

Paraphrasing what you heard is a great practice particularly if you are being given instructions at work, someone always has a story about how they heard instructions wrongly and the challenges that ensued because of misunderstanding between what they heard and what was actually said, or asked of them!

When listening try not to judge or jump to conclusions – listen with your whole self, ask questions but unless you’re being asked for advice, don’t give it.  Sometimes we just want to get something out, we don’t want another person’s opinion or advice, we just want someone who is willing to listen.

Need some support?

So if you’re in need of someone to help you, someone who will listen without judgement, and help you develop your plan through change, send me a note and let’s connect for a free discovery call to see if we fit.