"Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing. It is often through the quality of our listening and not the wisdom of our words that we are able to effect the most profound changes on the people around us." Rachel Naomi Remen
Last week's blog - SERVant Leadership...ON Purpose! was one of my more popular blogs to date. I'm not surprised. There's a healthy appetite for a positive leadership model. Can't think of a more positive / selfless leadership model than servant leadership! So, over the next number of weeks we'll go into more detail for EACH competency Robert Greenleaf identified - starting with authentic listening.
As noted, "The servant leader understands the will of a team and clarifies that will. The servant leader is always listening with an open heart to what is being said and not said. The servant leader hears one’s own inner voice with reflection and contemplation."
According to Ann Catlin, LMT, NCTMB, OTR, "Authentic listening is a sacred art. It's listening with presence that goes beyond what your ears hear and what you say in response. It's listening with your heart; it's responding from your authentic self. It's listening for the essence of the interaction and connecting heart to heart."
She continues "If we're to take an honest look at how we normally listen, we'd appear attentive and listening to the words the other person is saying but may be distracted by our own thoughts about what we're hearing, and already forming our response. Or we may be having judgments about what is said. Most of the time, we're more involved with our own experience than that of the other person."
Becoming an Authentic Listener
Listening from the heart requires self awareness and a willingness to expand your comfort zone. Intend to listen more authentically. Authentic listening is not about doing. No formulated response. No need to fix anything or to make the person feel better. It's not counseling or analyzing. It's about being. Being with the other person and caring about their experience. What follows are considerations for becoming an authentic listener.
1. Set the tone for authentic listening.
Tell the person how important it is for you to understand how s/he feels. When you set the authentic listening tone, your exchange will improve as a result.
2. Listen attentively to what is being said without interruption.
Be honest. If you're unable to be fully attentive, it's better to let the person know than to pretend you're listening. You might be preoccupied or tired. Letting the person know you care yet you can't give your full attention is acting with integrity.
THIS MEANS NOT HAVING YOUR iPHONE / DROID / COMPUTER / LAPTOP ANYWHERE WITHIN REACH!
The other person WILL notice your distraction(s)! As someone shared with me, "Being an effective listener is an invaluable asset. Years ago, while I was listening to the CEO of my company telling me something very important, I looked down at my watch. He stopped and asked if the time was as compelling as our conversation. I never did it again."
3. Quiet your mind.
Our minds are in constant motion. There are plenty of internal and external distractions drawing our attention. Getting centered and quieting the mental chatter opens a space for deep attentiveness. In other words, be truly present.
Techniques for getting centered:
Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of "Silent Messages" , conducted studies on nonverbal communication. He found 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial
expressions, gestures, posture, etc).
As noted, it's critical to focus all your attention on the person you're with - getting centered. Make eye contact. Genuinely listen. Concentrate on WHAT and HOW it's being said. Pay attention to facial gestures and body language, to better understand the thoughts and emotions that may be driving what's being said. Observe the nonverbal messages, both her's/his' and your's. What's the body posture telling you? Is the voice tone consistent with the spoken words? What's the facial expression?
Listen to the silence as well as the words. Learning to be comfortable sitting in silence with another person is one of the most powerful forms of communication. Silence allows the hearts to connect, and a sacred dialogue is spoken.
5. Listen without judgment.
Judgment is reacting based on our experience. We may react because our personal triggers get pushed. It's important to become aware of what your triggers are so you do not shut down open communication. As you listen, receive without judging what's said. Do this and you'll open a space for trust.
6. Walk in her/his shoes.
Think about what it would be like to be in her/his shoes. Can you understand why s/he feels or thinks the way s/he does? If her/his thoughts or feelings don’t seem reasonable, you may not yet have enough information. OR, you may not yet regard her/him as your equal. As you come to fully understand her/his position, thoughts, and feelings, acknowledge. For example, “I appreciate your frustration.”
7. Feed back your understanding of what's being said and feelings you sense.
Occasionally repeat back what you’ve heard in your own words. Repeating and paraphrasing gives her/him a chance to confirm you understood her/him correctly and completely, and often will prompt her/him to divulge more information. Try to fully understand her/his position, thoughts and feelings.
8. Ask questions to learn.
Be curious about what s/he thinks and why s/he thinks that way. Is there new information or a perspective you should consider?
Is s/he they COMPLETELY done?
Does s/he really want feedback?
What's my motive to listen / respond?
Say more about..
To help me to understand, may I ask...
So what I hear you saying...
9. Commit to patience.
We tend to move on to the next thing rather than attend to what is in front of us. True communication can't be rushed. Be patient with yourself and the other person. Avoid the temptation to formulate a response. Listen first, then respond. There may be a tendency to be mentally forming our response while the person is still talking. Focus first on what's being conveyed, then form a response.
The Result of Authentic Listening
When you listen from the heart, you enter into a mutual experience of giving and receiving. Your relationships will improve. You will become more respected and regarded in a positive way. You will become sought after. So, let yourself be uplifted by the experience as you uplift the life of another.
My best to your quest!
I believe each of us is a gift. I create trusted relationships where individuals, teams and leaders NAME, CLAIM and AIM their gifts to achieve optimum performance.
Interested to Learn About Yourself or Your Team? Mark is a Certified CliftonStrengths Coach, Facet5 and TotalSDI Facilitator and happy to discuss your situation.
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About Mark Myette
I believe each of us is a gift. I create trusted
Based out Roam - Buckhead - 3365 Piedmont Rd NE, Suite 1400 (2nd Floor), Atlanta, GA 30305
Can meet at other Roam locations if appropriate: Alpharetta; Dunwoody; or Galleria