Tune In. Don’t Tune Out! The Gift of True Listening
“Say more or tell me more.” This is one of the first tools I learned when I was going through life-coach training. The rationale behind this simple, yet critical tool is that people will sense that the listener is engaged and truly interested in what they are saying. My job as a life coach is to “voice my opinions and judgments as opinions that are partly wrong, and may be entirely wrong” (Martha Beck Life Coach Training Manual). Whether I am coaching a client or simply listening to a friend, I want to communicate to the person that I am holding a space for him or her to be as authentic as he or she cares to be. I also do not want people to ever feel that I am judging them. When people feel judged, they don’t feel safe. As a matter of fact, they can feel criticized or attacked. When people feel this way, they clam up. So, part of my job is facilitating people to share what is on their mind and in their hearts. This tool is incredibly valuable. Therefore, I try to use it during everyday conversation. This helps me be a better listener and, hence, a better communication partner. I truly believe that healthy communication is like a dance, and it certainly is an art. We can all stand to be better communicators in every aspect of our lives. The world will be a better place when we all become more intentional in the way we converse with family members, significant others, coworkers, and community members. I have decided to dedicate this e-newsletter to the aspect of communicating that often gets overlooked—listening.
Have you ever noticed how people spend more time or energy talking than listening? I don’t think this is just my experience. I see this almost everywhere. I know I’m guilty of doing this with my own partner. A common example is when Kim says something to me when I’m on the computer. Because my attention is elsewhere I really have no idea what she has said. It’s a good day when I know half of what she said. This is why I despise chatting with people on cell phones who are on their commute. Their attention is elsewhere. Yet, they have called me. They are not at their most attentive or focused. Hence, they tend not to hear or hold on to half of what I say.
I believe that our society could gain much from learning to listen to each other fully while maintaining an intent to truly understand the person speaking. In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey states, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” So, we are formulating our response as the other communicator is sending his or her message.
In his blog post “The Sacred Power of Listening,” Chip Richards shares:
In modern times, the average human speaks at a rate of 100–200 words per minute. Interestingly, we can hear at a rate of 400–600 words per minute . . . and we actually think 1–3000 words per minute. The difference between talking and listening speeds shows us we are physiologically more set up to listen than to talk, and the fact that our thoughts move 3–5 times faster than our words suggests that there’s a huge space for our mind to wander if we aren’t fully engaged with what is being said.
This could explain some of the miscommunication we see in our society and across the world. It could explain some of the frustration many of us feel with the current election. We are simply not communicating with one another to the best of our abilities. I believe that we can help make this world a better place if we were to all make a conscious choice to show up and listen every day with those whom we are interacting.
As Richards suggests:
As you enter different conversations in your day today, take some time to tune into how you are showing up as a listener. Are you present or mentally checked out? What are you paying attention to? Become aware of how your listening impacts the person speaking and see what happens when you bring yourself fully to the space and listen for “the gold” in what they are saying.
So, here is a bit of comedic relief to help me bring home the point of listening. In the first example, Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory helps illustrate poor listening behaviour, which we’re all guilty of from time to time if we are not being mindful.
In this example from Everybody Loves Raymond, Raymond beautifully illustrates the power behind effective, active listening. He clearly is allowing his daughter Ally to express her feelings. Through this safe space, the problem is resolved effortlessly.
I love the message of this video. When we truly show up and listen to another human being, we hold space for them—we allow people to be who they truly are. By allowing this to happen, miracles happen. People feel safe and seen. The fighting stops. We find solutions and achieve progress through collaboration.
Until next time,
Safe Space Life Coaching