How often do you get accused of not listening?
My colleagues and family laugh about my ability to lose myself in something (usually work!) to the extent that I can have a whole conversation sitting at the computer with absolutely no recollection afterwards. It’s not something I’m proud of.
I’m sure we all know other people who are a bit more obvious when they’re not listening. Maybe they interrupt or talk over you in a conversation because they want to say something that they think is more important. This can make you feel undermined and inadequate.
So why don’t we just listen more?
Because listening is hard work. It’s an art. It’s something that needs to be learned and then practiced. Regularly.
Think about young children. When they are born and in their early years they think the world revolves around them. They learn to communicate quickly through verbal and non-verbal means. But listening to others, and taking other people’s views and opinions on board, takes more time to learn. This is a key part of learning in childhood. But fast forward to adulthood and listening tends to take second place again. We forget the importance of listening to others. And in the work place as we move up the management ladder, the temptation to direct, enforce, and tell others what to do rather than listen, increases.
Listening is one of the most important skills for a coach. The power it can ignite in the person being heard is amazing. I’m talking about the power to think, clearly and rationally: to see the bigger picture, to identify the best options and create an action for moving forwards. It sounds so simple – and in many ways it is, but it’s also really hard to do well, and it can be exhausting! Which is why I find I struggle to do more than one coaching session in a day.
So if you’re keen to start rediscovering the art of listening, why not start with a family meal time once a week. It helps if you have everyone’s buy-in and it helps to agree in advance that all parties have an equal opportunity to speak (put any family hierarchy to one side). But the important thing is to agree that nobody is allowed to interrupt anyone else.
Why not give it a try. I’d be interested to hear how you get on.