This week I got the following coaching request of a leader: “I want to learn, how I can listen better.”
How wise to be aware, how difficult it is to really listen. To hear, what the other person actually means. Sounds simple, but it is not that easy, if we are not trained to do so.
“In the ’90’s during an excellent negotiation course that I followed, we had to play ‘dummy’ for the negotiator. First the ‘dummy’ sat opposite to the negotiator and listened. Then seats were changed and the ‘dummy’ had to repeat exactly what just was said. Then the negotiator had to answer him/herself. Although both positions were very exploratory, above all I still remember how difficult it was for almost all of us to be a good ‘dummy’! To the question of the trainer to the negotiator, whether the ‘dummy’ had repeated exactly what he/she had meant, the answer was mostly ‘no’ and seldom ‘yes’!”
Why is real listening rather hard?
Often not because we do not want to listen, but because:
1. Our head is full with extremely fast, mostly subconscious judgements, opinions and assumptions about what the other is saying. Because of that, we simple cannot really hear what the other is saying. When ‘a cup’ is full, nothing more can be absorbed.
2. If we feel or know or want to prevent, that the other has a judgement about us or when we think we have something to lose, then mostly we are caught by the automatic fight, flight or freeze reactions of our reptile brain, when the other says something. It is proven by neurological research, that our reptile brain automatically leads when activated. Only if we are aware, then we can chose for another reaction from other parts of our brain.
So what is the Art of Real Listening in 3 steps?
1. Observe the judgements, opinions and assumptions in your own head and put them aside while listening to the other person: Take a few deep breaths and empty your head.
Don’t judge yourself about having them, because that’s how we are raised and educated.
2. What is your preferred automatic program, when you feel anxiety or being ‘under attack’?
Do you directly have an answer (‘fight’) ?
Or do you remain silent (‘freeze’)?
Or do you make sure this was the last time meeting with this person, if possible (‘flight’)?
Not any ‘program’ is good or bad. It depends on the situation, which program serves best.
Again it is important to observe yourself and then consciously act, instead of automatically react in not threatening life situations!
It’s also helpful to realize, that everybody reacts based on their own ‘programs’, based on their life experiences and that it is NOT personal.
3. Check if you really understood the other person by synthesizing what you have heard and by asking if that reflects what was meant?
It is easier said than done, as everybody knows, who is trying to do the above or is working with non-violent communication. That’s because our programs or patterns can be very resistant.
Do you also want to become a better listener, so many things can be resolved? Then you are welcome for Personal Leadership Coaching. Please feel free to mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call me (+31617417100).
Do you want to look at and/or resolve underlying patterns in yourself, team or organisation? Then join one of the next Team & Organisation Streams Workshops, Friday March 6 2020 in Doorn and Friday May 15 2020 in Banholt, South-Limburg, the Netherlands in which constellations are used as instrument. For more info mail me or visit: https://www.ma-re.nl/organisational-constellations/
Success and warm regards,
Executive Coach | Systemic Teambuilder | Master Organisational Constellations
MA-RE Coaching & Constellations for Change