Tap.Tap. Tap…Tap.Tap.Tap…Is this on?
Can you all hear me? OK good. I would like to thank everyone for coming to Life’s Little Inspirations today. It’s wonderful to see so many familiar faces here and welcome to everyone who is here for the first time! Let’s get started then. Quiet, now. Shhhh, we are getting started a little late so I want to get going. If you can all pull your chairs up nice and close and make room for those who are standing in the back of the room that would be great. Wonderful. Thanks.
Today we will be discussing the Art of Listening with Ears Wide Open. However, before we begin, I would like to present you with an example of what passes for listening a great deal of time in our very busy, over stimulated culture and one very creative man’s solution for handling the situation.
Sir… could get the lights in the back of the room? …Thanks.
Now, I think we can safely say that this man was listening with his mouth open and his ears closed. In fact, to be more precise, he used an ancient stealth tactic that has been secretly passed down from one generation to the next to get OUT of listening. So, the next time someone suddenly plants a big wet one on you after your long and winding dissertation, do NOT make the leaping assumption that you have just spoken the most inspiring words since Martin Luther King. That person wants you to SHUT UP. They do not care what you have to say.
Kinda hurts your feelings a little bit doesn’t it?
We all want to be heard. There is something inside each and every one of us, a little voice crying out to be heard, thinking it isn’t all that interesting, all that important. So it sits there. Waiting for it’s turn. OR it jumps in, interrupting at odd times and then runs out of steam, never quite gathering up the full power of confidence without the other half of the equation. Someone who takes the time to listen.
The highest compliment you will ever pay another human being is to take the time to actively listen, actively observe, actively care about what is important to that other person. Focus on them. Listen to them. Care about them.
There are many different levels of listening and we go in and out of them several times a day.
Perhaps most frequently in our instant pudding society, we do what I call our:
Scan Listening: We use our ears these days the same way we use our eyes to read. We are too busy to read every word so we scan through what we are reading for relevant details while we are multi-tasking. We do it with our ears too. We do it while our children are talking, while the wife/husband is filling us in on the day and we are cooking/changing/ getting ready for the next transition in our over packed schedule. You can be sure you did it when you hear the words, “Honey, I just told you that.” ” You did?…I don’t think so…I would have remembered.”
No you wouldn’t have. You were reading the paper/computer. You only would have remembered if she just told you she won two tickets to your favorite team’s game. You were scanning.
If I ask you how many of you here now think you are all great listeners, a good many of you will be happy to raise your hands.
Go ahead and put them up if you want to. While you have them up, let me ask you a question. During that last example of scanning, how many of you with your hands up, just thought back to an example of the last time you were in a situation of scanning behavior?
OK. Good. Now..for all of you that did, how many of you thought, “That reminds me of the time when so and so said….and then…she said..and then….OH! I wish Wendi would quit talking so that I could have a chance to tell my story. I wonder if I’ll get a chance to raise my hand..will there be comments after????”
Well..yes, there will be comments after, and don’t worry, you are normal. You can put your hands down. That was an example of Reactive Listening, where you are just listening long enough to trigger a response from yourself so that you can share your thought, idea, or in the case of sales people ( and really annoying bad car salesmen) get them to see things your way so that you can get that sale.
What we want to look at today is a form of deeper, more focused listening that has the other person as the center of attention, not us. It isn’t as hard as you might think, you don’t have to be born with it, and with a little practice, you will have moments that will give you very deep inspired connections with others and leave you wondering what you have been listening to all this time.
Got your pens and paper ready?
Keys Points to Listening with Ears Wide Open.
Remember Two ears/ One mouth: It should go without saying that we start here, but somehow it doesn’t seem to be obvious. Sometimes people get hung up on that “Life’s Supposed to be Fair” rule here. Listen close. That rule DOES NOT APPLY HERE. This is not a give and take. They get to talk twice as much as you do. That’s the math equation. If you can get them to talk three times as much, with you just popping in a comment or a question now and them, you are already a pro.
Use Interested Body language Keep your body language calm and relaxed. DO NOT look at your watch or cell phone. (which by the way should be turned off) Lean slightly forward in toward them, showing interest, eyes looking at them, focused on what they are saying. Nothing says “I can’t hear you” more than eyes wandering around a room taking in the environment.
Respect Personal Boundaries Different cultures and different people have personal preferences about their personal boundaries. Get too close or get too far away and you have lost them. Look for the subtle signs of them backing away or moving in to you that will let you know their border preferences.
Be Observant Notice the little things. Watch for the flickers in their eyes when they speak of certain things. Was that painful to them? She just started rubbing her fingers back and forth very quickly and chewing her gum faster..hmmm. But she seems calm. Mixed signals? What ISN’T he saying?
Listen for meaning Listen for what they meant to say, not what they said. Don’t assume. If you aren’t absolutely sure, ASK. In this growing multi-cultural world, different places may have slightly different meanings. Heck, maybe even in your own backyard pub. Here is an example a few of you may recall:
Coach: Can I draw you a beer Norm?
Norm: No, I know what they look like, just pour me one.
Poor Norm. He thought he was listening. Oh well. At least he got his beer.
Ask Open-ended questions Asking open-ended questions and questions that clarify what it was they meant let’s them know you are interested and gives them permission to continue. It draws them out and helps them to think through their own thoughts on the subject. They may not have even known how they felt until you helped them to think it all through. You don’t even need to give your opinion, just letting them sort through their own opinion with a good pair of ears is a huge help!
Empathize not Sympathize, and DO NOT JUDGE! They don’t want or need your pity, and they don’t want to be judged. Accept what they tell you unconditionally. Offer your understanding. If you have had a similar experience, share a short, abbreviated version so they can see you really do understand but don’t let it slip into an opportunity to become all about you and don’t give advice unless asked. Be very careful about giving any advice that could be seen as professional advice unless you are a professional. You are here to listen, not give medial opinion. It’s a slippery slope. Don’t get caught going down that hill.
They don’t care what you know until they know that you care.
It is argued who was the first to say that quote, but it isn’t argued how true it is. If people feel that you don’t or won’t take the time to listen to them, then what you in effect have said is-I don’t love you, you don’t matter to me, you aren’t important enough to me to give up my time, my energy or my attention. I’d rather look at strangers on Twitter, Facebook, You Tube or the Boob Tube than to pay attention to you.
Kinda hurts your feelings a little bit doesn’t it?
Please….go out and pay someone the compliment of listening with ears wide open. It is one of the most loving, kindest, caring things you can do for another human being.
Time for comments.