The 4 habits that derail you from being a great listener

“One hour of compassionate deep listening can bring about transformation and healing” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

We are all taught to speak. Yet none of us are taught how to listen.

The reality is that with no training we can instantly identify when the person we are speaking to isn’t listening.

You learned to listen before you were born. It was the first skill you ever developed – you learned to listen before you learned to breathe or speak.

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Context is the spice in powerful listening

“Without context words and actions have no meaning” ~ Gregory Bateson

Context is like seasoning in a meal. Although seasoning is not the main ingredient in the food, its presence can transform the meal to a completely different experience. Context brings a deep sense of flavour to the conversation. The absence of context makes the story bland and difficult to follow and the presence of context completely alters the listening experience.

Context is like the difference between learning a new language in your home country and learning how to speak a language while you are living in the country of the language. Learning to speak French in France is an immersive, compelling and challenging experience. Fully immersed in a conversation, you can navigate the context with the speaker rather than being a passive recipient of new information.Read More

6 proven Chinese secrets to becoming a skillful listener

“Hearing a hundred times is not as good as seeing once” ~ Zhou Chongguo

Listening is a full body experience. Listening with only your ears, you miss most of the dialogue. It’s like hearing a movie without seeing the pictures.

The Chinese character called “Ting” meaning “To Listen”. It has 6 distinct components and all elements of Ting need to be present when you are listening to the words. In our modern Western culture, too much emphasis is placed on listening with our ears and only our ears. There are so many other dimensions to listening rather than just hearing what is being spoken.

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Understanding the power of the 125-400 rule of listening

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” ~  Pablo Picasso

The first ingredient for deep listening is to treat silence like another word in the conversation.

This is the first ingredient in the recipe of deep listening. The reason why it’s critical to pay attention and listen completely including the pauses, the silence and thoughtful moments in a discussion is because of the simple maths between speaking and hearing. Although you can think at 400 words per minute, you can only speak at between 125-175 words per minute. (Carver, Johnson, & Friedman, 1970).

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Why the words don’t matter when you are deeply listening

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” ~ Robin Williams

I have an unhealthy relationship with books. I love them too much. I can get lost in a book and be transported to another place, another time and a different mindset. Equally, I love too many books – it’s my guilty pleasure. And, I am all about the printed book. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against electronic books – I think they’re a marvellous invention – portable, lightweight, written word or audio books. The electronic format is fabulous, but it’s just not for me.

I like printed books because they are portable, lightweight and I can write all over them – with pencil, with pen and sticky notes. In the process of writing all over the book the book becomes mine. The book is unique to me.

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Connect to your origins to be a great listener

“Listen to your drum and your drum only. It’s the one that makes the sweetest sound.” ~ Simon Sinek

The practice of listening is closely connected to the rhythm of your breathing. When you get this, then you start to understand how to listen deeply.

We are all born great listeners – it’s as natural as being a great breather. We just haven’t been encouraged to recognise this.

With all the distractions of modern day life and work, we have moved away from our natural state as amazing listeners. Deep listening starts with reconnecting with our most powerful listening instincts.

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The massive cost of not listening in the modern world

“Listen to the sound of silence” ~ Paul Simon

Irene arrived at work and she is greeted by a series of back-to-back, all-day meetings in her calendar. No time to have lunch, grab a refreshment or just pause and recollect her thoughts. She is already frustrated and anxious and she hasn’t walked in the door. Irene knows that today is the same as yesterday and tomorrow won’t be any different.

People want Irene in their meetings to help make decisions, to join the ideas and provide an outside perspective. Yet she is already struggling to have perspective of her own. Most of these meetings are a waste of time. She is on autopilot, predicting the meetings that will be productive and those that are going to be disasters.

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Who cares when you are not listening to the team?

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When we really listen to people there is an alternating current and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other” ~ Brenda Ueland

The cost of not listening is more than not being heard. The cost of not listening is about the missed opportunity that the team fails to explore or chooses to ignore.

The cost of not listening to your team is wasted time, limited understanding of what success is, misunderstanding inside and outside the team, frustration, superficial conversations and relationships, which all results in limited trust and limited impact.

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3 transformational hacks to make you a great listener

“Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right.” ~ Jane Goodall

Everyone feels when someone is listening deeply to them. Equally, you sense when someone isn’t. Dialogue is a shared experience that involves hearing, watching and exploring the landscape of the conversation.

Great dialogue is like the ebb and flow of the waves on a beach. There is a natural tempo and movement between the water and the sand. Done well, there is an easy and effortless interaction between two different approaches. Occasionally, like a poorly formed wave, a conversation can come crashing down – messy and wasteful.

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Is listening more like exploring than discovery?

“We are looking to be expressed not fixed.” ~ Jonathan Fields

The process of listening is an exploration of a galaxy. Your intention is not about discovering something specific along the way. The intention of exploration creates more powerful discoveries.

When you are considering the sky at night and your focus is to discover a specific star with determination and focus you will find it. In the process of looking for one specific star, you miss the opportunity to discover an amazing range of stars, planets and galaxies.

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