Better listening starts with this one thing

Apr 27, 2021
Photo by Tim Gouw from Pexels

Yesterday’s Daily Tip discussed going beyond active listening to become an effective listener, by becoming aware of, and removing, the seven listening blocks.

In a recent workshop on listening, a participant said to me: “This is impossible. I can’t stop thinking. I’m not some kind of Buddhist monk!”

My response?

If you start with the right intent, you won’t have to.

Our goal with effective listening is not to stop thinking, but to be empathetic, open, and aware enough to see the other person’s humanity (their feelings and needs), without judgment.

It’s always possible to do this if that’s your objective going into the conversation.

Intention influences eh.vry.thing

What transpires in any relationship is significantly influenced by your intent, even if the other person is different or difficult.

Yes, this is true, even if the other person is not initially receptive or is resisting, because when we have the right intent, our entire demeanor changes, our word choice is more careful, and other people’s walls will come down, even if just a little.

When we start with the right intentions, we will also:

  • Be empathetic, reminding ourselves that everyone is just trying to survive and that all human acts are strategies to meet the needs we all share.
  • Be open, not judging the speaker or ourselves. When we listen to find fault, information gets scrambled on its way in.
  • Be aware, for example, if the other person’s message and body language are aligned with your knowledge of them and the situation. (If not, your body will feel that “something’s not right” -- your signal to ask clarifying questions.)

What intent should I set?

Real listening happens when we intend to do one or more of these four things:

  1. To understand someone
  2. To enjoy someone
  3. To learn something, or
  4. To help or console.

There’s a lot going on here, and, yes, it’s a lot to think about, which can be difficult in the heat of a conversation, but, so long as your intent is to learn and understand, you will become a more effective listener.

Set one of these four intents before you engage.

Confident Communicator Challenge

Change begins with awareness. After every conversation today, ask yourself: what was my intent when listening to the other person? Was it to be right, to not embarrass yourself, to end the conversation? Or was it to understand, to enjoy, to learn, or to help? Carrying a pen and paper to write this down will allow you to review your listening intentions at day’s end.

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