Not Listening To Me
“What gets in the way of you listening?” I asked a group of executives, “Of you being present and focused on the person you’re with?”
They were really honest,
“Wondering what time it is.
Thinking about what I’m going to say next.
Relating what the person is saying to me.
Deciding if what they’re saying is right or wrong.
Planning the next thing on my schedule.
In the middle of all this, a man in his fifties said, “Me… I get in the way of listening to people”
So much happens in our minds when people are talking to us, unfortunately so little of it has to do with what they are saying. It’s the way our minds work. Everything you hear you associate with what you already know. Even the things that are brand new to you, are filed with the old stuff. You take what others are saying and relate it to yourself. That’s unfortunate.
I remember my first coaching class when I was in graduate school, my instructor said, “James, you have to stop trying to understand what the other person is saying.”
“What?” I remember feeling, “What’s wrong with understanding? That’s how I relate to people.”
I sat in that class, disoriented. Skills practice after skills practice trying to listen without understanding. I kept thinking, “This is crazy. It feels awkward. What am I doing?”
You know what I learned? I don’t know if this will resonate with you, but for me it’s huge – there is more to listening than understanding. At the core, understanding is about the listener, it’s about me and what I’m getting out of what the other person is saying. And I slowly learned in that class that there is more to a conversation than me. There is more happening than what I know, than I can understand. And when we step beyond ourselves and listen for the other person’s sake, we start participating in their development.
So here is what you can do. The next conversation you’re in, stop thinking about yourself and what you’re going to say next. Don’t worry about if you agree or not with what’s being said. Let go of trying to understand. Just be with them as a listener. Give them space to talk. Focus on them as a person, not just what their saying. And don’t relate it to yourself. Just listen.
Listen for their new thought. Listen for their excitement. Listen for what’s important to them. Listen for their sake.
Want to listen better? Get Trained.