I have written previously that one of the things I simultaneously love and sometimes hate about life is that in EVERY case, we have just two choices. We live in a world of duality. That is a fact. Everything is one thing or the opposite; light or dark, up or down, good or bad, loving or fearful, etc.
Continuing with that theme, this week I want to write about another choice people universally seem to struggle with every day: how to listen (or, quite frankly, whether to listen at all).
I’ll bet there have been times you’ve had a conversation with someone and you’ve walked away feeling like you were talking to the wall. Right? How did you feel when that happened? When I ask that question of a group, I get responses like: ignored, unappreciated, alone, frustrated, disrespected and not cared about. But here’s the real problem: I’ll bet there are times people have conversations with you and they walk away feeling like they were talking to the wall. Right? Do you realize that they are left feeling the same way as just described?
During the many years I have been traveling, I have encountered a significant number of people who have raved to me about someone they worked for or with. In every case, what they thought was so wonderful about them was what a great listener they were and the fact that they always took time for them. So if you want to be an empowering boss, co-worker, friend, spouse and parent, learn to be a great listener.
In theory, it’s simple to do this. That’s because the phenomenon of listening only has two components: who do you have your attention on and what’s your internal conversation. That’s it. Pretty simple, if you understand it.
Here’s how to be a lousy listener: have your attention on yourself and spend your time thinking about whether you agree or disagree with the speaker, or what you’re going to say next, or if they’re right or wrong, or whether you’re going to win or lose or, worst of all, when are they going to get to the point so you can get out of the conversation and get back to what you were doing or want to do.
Here’s how to be a great listener: get your attention on the other person! Climb into their world. Look our through their eyes and really try to understand not only what they’re saying but where they’re coming from. Listen for the goodness in the other and with compassion. Listen for how the conversation can end in a win/win.
In conclusion, far too many people don’t realize that how they listen is key to their effectiveness with others. Don’t be one of them. Work on being a really great listener and watch all of your relationships improve right in front of your eyes. If you want to read more about this, you can get a copy of Unshackled Leadership, either as a physical book or an audio book, at http://www.unshackledleadership.com/online-store/