How to Listen in 4 Easy Steps!

My two year old son said, “Look mommy the…the…the…the…thing  on the door is white.” 

I looked to see what white “thing” is on the door. I pointed to  my robe. 

I said, “This?”

He nodded.

I said, “You’re right! The robe is white. Can you say 

He says, “Yes, mommy the “wobe” is white”. 

I chuckled to myself at his cute mispronunciation. Then I praise him for successfully recognizing and  identifying his colors.

In the 30 seconds it took to have this whole conversation , my son and I  successfully identified the benefits of developed listening skills.

1.  He learned something new

2.  I learned something new about him

3.  We established a safe environment of trust

As mom, it was my job to decipher what “thing” meant. So I investigated. I looked at all the “things” on the door. Then I selected all the white “things”. Then identified each white “thing” until he affirmed which one he meant.

When we listen well to others, we had the chance to go through a similar process. As we listen, we have to be on the hunt for deeper meaning. If it is there, take the responsibility to initiate what I call the "revelatory process":

  • Identify it
  • Articulate it 
  • Wait for the speaker to confirm or deny its truth
  • Repeat until meaning is clear

Like my toddler, there are times speakers don’t really know what it is they are trying to say. Because of that they might use other words to try to describe, hint at, or get as close to our true meaning as possible. Good communicators use effective listening skills to help the speaker. 

If the speaker are uncertain, go through the revelatory process until meaning is clear. Sometimes the speaker can find the words to convey what he or she truly means on his or her own. Other times, help is needed. 

As listeners, we are in the unique position to help speakers  better understand themselves. Communication problems arise when we try to insert a meaning the speaker never intended or when we tell the speaker what he means or needs to do. 

For example:

Your friend at work expresses concern over his upcoming presentation. He doesn’t quite know why he is feeling anxious but it is driving him crazy. As he is expressing his concern, you cut to the chase and begin assuring him that he’ll do fine. Then you advise him to shake it off and “go get ’em”. 

You say this because you want to be supportive. You want to assuage his fears, and spur him into confident action. 

But what if, at that moment, your vague and generic “motivational minute” wasn’t what he was really after?

Consider that you might have missed an opportunity to experience the magic of the “revelatory process”. Had you listened, deciphered, articulated, and waited for confirmation, you might have discovered that what you thought was anxiety really was insecurity that stemmed from recently received negative feedback on his last project...or that he indeed was indeed insecure.

After getting to the heart of the issue, you can still offer your “motivational minute”. Yet, instead of coming across flippant and cliché, you are now received as intuitive and caring. Your friend learned something new about himself. You learned something new about him. And you established a safe environment of trust. 

It is amazing what can happen in 30 seconds if we listen purposefully. 

Have you assumed you knew what someone wanted and got it wrong?

1 comment:

  1. Ryan, thanks for commenting. Yes, knowledge and intuition are key. We won't get great results without listening, but it seems to be a skill that people overlook or take for granted don't you think?