I think we have all thought we heard one thing only to later find that we missed the point all together. Listening is so much more than ‘hearing’.
The first step to becoming an effective listener is to have a “learner” attitude. This means recognizing that the other person may have something of value to offer in the conversations that you may not have seen or adequately considered.
We must be present (versus somewhere else in our head) and focus on what is being said, not just on words, but also on tone, body language and other non-verbal signals. We cannot listen to another if we are in a private dialogue in our head about agreeing with parts, disagreeing with parts, etc.
There are 4 levels of listening
1) It’s all about me – I need information you have and then the conversation is done.
2) I shift my focus from me to you – I ask questions to understand the details of what is going on from your perspective.
3) I look to deepen my understanding of your concerns and what is important to you.
4) I want to understand areas of alignment so we can collaborate.
Listening is done for the sake of building relationships versus the transfer of information. It is a gift you give to others. We all wish to be seen, to be heard, to be noticed in this world. Listening is your behavior that you offer to another — affirming that they have been respected, granted legitimacy and given a moment of time from us.
Caring about and making the required effort to interpret what’s important to them about their future is an additional gift you offer. Have you been missing the point?