The art of listening

Following on from yesterday’s post around the idea of how we approach listening today I want to take a look at how we listen. I’ve led plenty of training sessions with the focus on the skills needed to listen effectively and to challenge us through our own limitations we each have.

However when I am thinking about how we listen i want to consider the following 5 aspects that are so perfectly shown in the Chinese character for listen shown above.

Ears: It seems simple and obvious to start with the idea of listening with your ears but it is so easy to “switch off” and even unconsciously allow your mind to wander. Listening is about making a conscious decision to pay attention. Listening is often not simply about listening to the words that you hear but listening to what isn’t being said and so you really have to be tuned into not just the words but how it is being said.

Mind: Being focused and present in the moment with the person you are listening to. Mindfulness is the act of being fully present in each moment with kindness and without judgment and it is a wonderful skill to practice when you are in any situation that requires listening

Eyes: Making eye contact is so important as is the entire body language we use to show that we are listening. We communicate so much through non verbal means. There is an often misquoted statistic about verbal vs nonverbal communication stating that verbal only makes up 7% of the way we communicate. However whatever the statistic is, we have to acknowledge that communication is more than simply the words we use. Therefore, how we present our physical attention towards the other person is important to showing that we are actively listening.

Undivided attention: This is about ensuring that we are fully there for the person we are listening too. I looked at this yesterday in greater depth and explored how listening starts before we enter the room with our client. If we are distracted in our body or our mind with throughs of other things, we do a dis-service to the person we are listening to.

Heart: We have to make a conscious decision to enter into a listening relationship with the person we are sitting with. We must allow our heart to be moved with compassion for the person so that we can with genuine interest explore their story and allow them the space and time to tell it their way. This compassion is vital in having a genuine bond with the other person.

All of these are skills that can be learned if we allow ourselves to be challenged and conscious of ourselves when we start to listen. When we do all of these things we can truly say that we are listening. So the next time you listen try to be mindful of these 5 aspects of listening:

Ears, Mind, Eyes, Undivided attention and heart.

 

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