Is anyone listening?
I can hear you asking yourself. I
really like the following quote from Alan Mumford:
‘It is so long since most of us began to listen that we
probably regard it as a natural skill, yet observations of babies, and of
managers, show that it is hearing which is natural and listening is not.'
And it is not just managers who can do with improving their
listening skills, most of us can become very sloppy in our listening especially
when we are very busy.
On a recent
workshop that I attended with Michael Neill, he shared his five levels of
listening, which people can engage in. They are:
Level One: Listening
to affirm what the other person is saying, whether this is through non-verbal
or verbal language.
Level Two: Listening
to argue, where we are stuck in our own ‘map of the world’, which we do not
want to move from, so we are listening in order to put across our own view of
the world and if necessary argue for it.
Level Three: Listening
to try and understand what the other person means, trying to relate to what
they are saying. It is about getting a level of cognitive understanding, which
can leave us so busy trying to think through and understand what they are
saying that we do not really listen to everything they say.
Level Four: Listening
to solve or fix a problem or to make them feel better. Again, we can be so busy
thinking this through that we fail to really see what is there.
Level Five: Just
listening Michael describes this as being a ‘rock with ears’ or a video camera,
taking in everything you see and hear, without judgement. When you do this it
allows your unconscious mind to see, hear and feel more clearly. It creates
space for our intuition to work and for new insights to occur.
Which of the levels of listening do you normally operate
from? Which feels most natural and comfortable for you?
you think of the cost of poor working relationships, in terms of the time and
energy wasted arguing, sulking, avoiding each other, or mis-communicating with
each other; or if you look at the mistakes that are made because of poor
communication; or poor customer service because staff are not feeling valued
and listened to themselves. I always think that if you want staff to treat
customers and clients with respect, warmth, and good communication, then they
need to be experiencing that from their managers and from each other.
I recently read that in very large businesses it costs $26,041:
cumulative cost per worker per year due to productivity losses resulting from
communications barriers. See here for some more facts about the cost of poor communication.
I think that so
much of the time when we think of improving how we communicate, we think about
how to be more assertive, how to speak up, how to ask questions, but listening
is an essential feature of good communication.
busy working and home lives, we can often think that we don’t have time to
listen properly to others. We end up half listening, while multitasking and
never giving our full attention. If we stop and really listen, showing that we
are listening, and asking some well placed questions, we can reap many
- Improved rapport with others, which in turn makes it easier
to have those ‘difficult’ conversations at work or give feedback to others.
- A greater connection with others will make them feel more
comfortable in the workplace and reduce the ‘threat’ response they feel due to
the everyday pressures of work. Listen to the start of my free webinar for more
about the threat response. See here.
- You can help others to solve their own problems by listening
to them, asking them questions, helping them to think the problem through and
explore possible solutions.
- Linked to the last point if you are a manager (or a parent)
who finds your time taken up solving other people’s (or children’s) problems, listening
and questioning them can help develop their confidence and ability to solve
their own problems, thereby freeing up your time to focus on what you are meant
to be doing.
- A greater understanding of what makes your colleagues tick
will help you to adapt how you communicate and work with them, to create an
easier and more effective, efficient working relationship.
‘A good listener is not only popular everywhere,
but after a while he
gets to know something.’
What would be the benefits for you? How would others benefit
from you listening more?
An Inspire that I wrote
in 2008 covers some of the common blocks to really listening to others, see here to find out more about ‘on-off’ listening, red flag listening, and eureka
However, for so many of us today, time seems to be the
biggest issue, and also what is going on within our own heads, which stops us
focussing on others. Winnie the Pooh humourously sums this up in Pooh’s Little
‘If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be
listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in
I think it is the fluff and stuff which is churning in our
minds which stops us from stopping and truly listening.
What gets in the way of you listening to others?
Even the most challenging relationship at work (and in families) can
be improved by better listening. Think about a relationship that could be
improved and the benefits of improving it.
- What level of listening are you currently engaging in with
- What level of listening could you use to improve the quality
of your interactions?
On workshops and in coaching sessions, clients sometimes say
to me, ‘but I can’t stand X, they drive me mad, I don’t what to spend time
listening to them talk about their weekend, etc’. If the relationship is
causing problems at work (or at home) and you have to deal with them regularly,
and there is a cost attached to having the poor working relationship, then
improving how you listen to them during normal workplace (or family)
interactions, will start to improve things. You don’t have to sit down, have a
cup of tea and a chat with them in order to improve things. In fact, trying to
do that with someone you don’t have rapport with can often make things worse.
Simply focus on improving the normal everyday interactions you have with them.
‘Listening in dialogue is listening more to meaning than to
words…In true listening, we reach behind the words, see through them, to find
the person who is being revealed verbally and nonverbally.’
John Powell, Theologian
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support you in changing and achieving your goals, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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