Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
- Helen Keller

The Power of Listening

10.08.2013

Did you know that if you rearrange the letters of the word LISTEN you can spell SILENT? I don’t think that’s a coincidence. But it takes more than silence to listen.

Are you aware of the “Stop Phubbing” campaign that went viral this week? Phubbing is the act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention. But the inability to give someone your full attention is nothing new.

Most people listen with the intention to reply and are so preoccupied with formulating what they’ll say when the other person stops talking, that they don’t listen to what is being said.

I used to do exactly that, and if I’m honest, there are times when I still do. But not when I’m coaching.

When I trained to be a coach back in 2009 I was staggered at how much time and effort I had to invest to learn to listen... really listen. Depending on which model you subscribe to there are between 3 and 8 levels of listening which go something like this:

Level 1      You scan background noise but are not really registering sounds

Level 2      You’re not concentrating and you give stock answers – “Yes dear”

Level 3      You selectively take information in and are unwilling to question your existing views

Level 4      You put your own interpretation on what is being said & often misunderstand

Level 5      You listen for content but miss non-verbal clues, often due to a time pressured focus on results

Level 6      You listen for content and non-verbal clues but do not reflect empathy

Level 7      You listen with full attention and see the world from the other person's point of view

Level 8      You can extend help unselfishly with the other person's interests at the forefront

Stephen Covey said 

We all like to be listened to and understood, when we are understood we feel affirmed and validated."

In business listening enables us to build trust, collaborate effectively and retain customers. In our personal lives listening nurtures relationships.

Listening does not come naturally to most people, we need to work hard at it; to stop ourselves 'jumping in' and finishing people’s sentences, or giving our opinions.

But try it at work or at home. What response did you get?

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