Opening up a bit today.
In my role as a leadership and customer experience trainer, I've been honing listening skills for the past 15 years. The types of listening we practice and the obstacles to being good listeners are usually topics I delve into in my classes. It's typically a small component of the sessions I conduct, but recent events and reflections have given a whole new depth to the art of listening.
I'd like to share my three major pitfalls in listening and what I've been doing to overcome them. This isn't advice; it's just sharing, and I'd love to discuss it further if you're up for it.
Listening while thinking how this relates to me:
I used to listen with my brain automatically searching a mental database for similar experiences, aiming to connect with the person. Every time they paused, I'd almost immediately jump in with how I related to their situation. It made me feel relatable, and I was genuinely proud of myself.
I'm realizing that by diving into my database for connections, I sometimes got lost in my own stories. While it showed empathy, I must have, at times, steered the conversation to focus on me. You know, the whole "Oh, that happened to you? Wait till you hear how bad it was for me" scenario.
Listening while thinking about how I can help this person/make the situation better/solve the problem/win this argument:
Thinking I was brilliant, I used to strategize responses while the other person spoke, especially during arguments. Quick thinking, problem-solving – I felt pretty proud of myself.
Caught up in future scenarios, I found myself not fully listening. I'd be eager to jump in with a solution even before the person finished their sentence. When someone does that to me now, it makes me feel like they weren't listening; they were just waiting to showcase their clever solutions or ideas. Most times, it made me shut down, give a half-smile, and sometimes just agree to end the misery of not being seen or heard.
Starting with the End in Mind:
I used to subtly guide conversations toward the conclusion I already had in mind. Crafty, right? It made me feel smart and powerful, and the other person thought they reached the conclusion themselves.
Discovering this trait in myself felt like a wake-up call. It was so subtle and internalized that I was oblivious to it. Recently, in a coaching session where I was the coach, it hit me that I was doing this. I'm glad I caught it; it highlighted my biases and made me acutely aware that to truly listen, I must not have an agenda.
In my journey of recovery, I practice awareness while listening. When my mind starts heading to the database, or I'm tempted to jump ahead to solutions, or when my ego slyly comes up with schemes to push my agenda without truly listening and understanding first, I take a moment to breathe. I bring my attention to the body and the present, reminding myself that I am empty, and I am here to listen.
I hope some of this resonates with you. If you're on the journey to becoming a better listener too, hit me up, and maybe we can form a support group! 😊