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Podcast Episode 058: The Five Levels of Listening – Listening for the Unsaid

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Listening for the unsaid is Level Four listening.

It’s the ultimate ninja move of a Deep Listener and it sounds counterintuitive.

It’s moving your orientation away from what’s in it for you, but toward the speaker. Help the speaker understand what they’re saying and thinking.

Learn how to listen to silence like it’s another word in the conversation. Learn how to navigate the labels of ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’. Learn how to interpret body language.

Listen to the unsaid and take your listening to a new level; the next step on the journey to becoming a Deep Listener.

Transcript

Podcast Episode 058: The Five Levels of Listening – Listening for the Unsaid

Alan Stokes:

The third one which is the most important thing is that recognising through your questioning and through your senses what’s being unsaid, and the unsaid questioning technique is the most important one not just in journalism, but in lifeline. To be able to bring out what is unsaid is really a skill and it’s something that requires the focus, it requires the questioning technique. It requires the reflection of meaning, so if someone tells you something and it doesn’t quite make sense you need to be able to say, “Okay, from what I’m hearing, this crisis is happening to you in a way like this. Is that correct?” And often that will open up areas that are unsaid.

Oscar Trimboli:

Deep Listening, impact beyond words. I’m Oscar Trimboli and this is the Apple award-winning podcast, Deep Listening. Designed to move you from an unconscious and distracted listener to a deep and impactful listener. Did you know you spend 55% of your day listening, yet only 2% of us have had any training in how to listen. Frustration, misunderstanding, wasted time and opportunity along with creating poor relationships are just some of the costs of not listening. Each episode of the series is designed to provide you with practical, actionable and impactful tips to move you through the five levels of listening. I invite you to visit oscartrimboli.com/facebook to learn more about the five levels of listening and how to learn from others who are listening better. Joining me is our co-host NellNorman-Nott, who will ask the questions that you’ve been asking and asking me the questions I haven’t considered to help make you a deep and impactful listener.

Oscar Trimboli:

Listening to the unsaid is the ultimate ninja move of a deep listener. Listening to what is not said is counterintuitive. It’s about moving your listening orientation away from you, what you hear and what it means for you, and it means that you now need to move your listening orientation to the speaker, not to help you understand what they’re saying to you. It’s about helping the speaker understand what they’re thinking and what meaning they’re making from what they’re saying. This is a tipping point. This is the start of entering the doorway to deep listening.

Oscar Trimboli:

A good listener makes sense of what the speaker says. A deep listener helps the speaker make sense of what they’re saying and what they mean because they’re helping the speaker to explore what they haven’t said, to explore what’s not explored in their own mind. The question we think about here Nell, is let’s focus on questions about exploring rather than questions about discovery. It’s about being open. It’s about being curious rather than fixing, solving, or progressing. If you can embed this critical content, if you can take one thing out of this episode, it’s the neuroscience of speaking. The speaker can think at 900 words a minute yet they can only speak at 125 words a minute. There’s a big difference, and the likelihood that the first thing out of the speaker’s mouth is what they’re thinking. Well, there’s a one in nine chance or 11% that what they’re saying is what they’re actually thinking.

Oscar Trimboli:

Now, if I visit a doctor and they gave me an 11% chance to have a successful surgery, I’d be asking for a second opinion, yet so few of us ever ask a second opinion of what the speaker is thinking. Here’s three simple questions that you can ask. These are three questions that help explore the other 800 words that are stuck in the speaker’s head. These three questions always sit in my tool kit bag when I explore what’s unsaid. These three questions are, what else, tell me more, I’m curious what you’re thinking right now. Nell, as we explore what’s unsaid, what’s going through your head?

Nell Norman-Nott:

What’s going through my head is, that it resonates with me when you talk about that distinction between questioning to explore and questioning to solve, because I am completely guilty of questioning to solve rather than questioning to explore. I recall a direct [inaudible 00:05:23] mine when I was quite a junior manager and we were having a career discussion. She’d come in specifically for this meeting, we were sat one on one in a little room and the topic was, where did she want to go? Where does she want to get to in her career? She’s a really good performer, very detailed, very articulate. Really spent a lot of time on her work, made sure she got things right, was probably more of a quieter kind of personality and with someone who I knew that I had to draw information out of her to really get her to express her opinion of that had been my experience in a wider team meetings and then we had hours where… was through this conversation, through this career, discussion and I simply asked, “Where do you see yourself in several years time? Where would you like to get to?”

Nell Norman-Nott:

She said, “I want to be a team lead. I want to be a senior manager within an organisation with a big team. Although I like doing the work day to day, I really see myself having a large team.” It took me back slightly because it surprised me given her personality and where she was at, but I felt very much I didn’t want to let any of my unconscious biases get in the way of what she wanted to do. As I was at that stage in my career, I took what she said at face value, we put a plan in place and she started working on the things that she needed to do, a bit more practise at public speaking, getting more involved in managing some projects. I noticed she wasn’t that happy and things moved on, she actually later resigned from the organisation and she came to me and said she was going to pursue her passion of design work and she was very creative personality and I thought, gosh, that sounds perfect for you.

Nell Norman-Nott:

In my mind I realised that [inaudible 00:07:32] when we had that career conversation all those months before, I should’ve been more exploratory in my questions because the result probably had been that she hadn’t been happy in her job and she had told me this was what she wanted and we’d been working towards it but actually she wasn’t really happy doing what she was doing, so I think the knock on impact for business must’ve been, yeah, for organisations all over the place. I was junior in my role that the knock on impact for the business then would have been costly because they lost someone. I’d spent time with her trying to develop [Lisa 00:08:09] as well so it was something that was a big learning to me and just hearing what you’re saying about questioning to solve and questioning to explore, it really made me think of that scenario and I wonder, Oscar how many other managers have ever been in situations like that. I hope I’m not alone in it, it’s just me that made that mistake.

Oscar Trimboli:

No, you’re not alone and I think relatively consistently the only way an individual contribute to somebody, can see career progress, is inquiry progress through the lens of the person in front of them, their manager and they don’t have any other landscape to explore on, and I’m sure she could have been in a more creative role inside your organisation or outside your organisation but in that moment our ego jumps in, it grabs hold of us that. It says we’re the all mighty powerful manager, we know exactly what they’re saying and that’s the point about listening for what’s unsaid in that moment. We would have just taken a little bit longer to ask them the question.

Oscar Trimboli:

What would a day in the life of a manager look like for you and help them to explore that horizon in a very different way. All of a sudden that could’ve spent a little bit more time thinking about it, but even in that moment you notice that you are trying to understand what it meant for you and what you needed to do, go and get some training for her, make sure she filled in the forms as opposed to helping her to make sense of what it meant for her and that’s listening for what’s unsaid.

Oscar Trimboli:

I think sometimes when we pose those questions Nell, we say things like [inaudible 00:09:49] I’m curious what you’re thinking about, this or what else? Here’s a few things you’ll notice that they start to explore what else is in their thinking. The first thing you’ll notice is typically they’ll inhale. You’ll notice their breathing change. It’ll change its pace from whatever it is to something that’s a little bit deeper and they’ll take a deep breath. Their body posture will change. Usually their shoulders go back and their spine straightens or they almost curl their neck back as if their eyes are going further back towards the back of their head. The hand positions will often change as well and you’ll notice that the change in the posture signals a change in energy for them.

Oscar Trimboli:

It signals a change in state, but this happens in microseconds and if you’re looking at your phone or your iPad or your laptop, you’re going to miss these signals and that’s why the very first thing we talked about in listening to yourself is switch your phone into flight mode and start to move these distractions away, but if you’re not paying attention, if you are laptop bound or you’re iPad bound or you’ve got a phone in front of you, here’s some code words to listen out for when you ask that question because you’ll notice they’re going a little bit further into those 900 words.

Oscar Trimboli:

Common words I say are things like, well actually… well they’ll say, “You know what I haven’t said so far?” Or, they’ll say, “The critical thing I probably should discuss with you is.” Or thinking about it again, what comes to mind is? Or something as simple as what I haven’t said so far, and then finally, you know, it’s so obvious now that I think about it, and these words are signals for you that they’re unpeeling all the eight layers of the onion that are in those 800 words that are stuck in their head, but again, if we’re not conscious, if we’re not present, we’re likely not only to miss the nonverbal signals on the state change but also these very, very clear verbal cues and these verbal cues help us to understand, to explore a little further, or do we move on from what we’ve got to say.

Oscar Trimboli:

Nell, as always words escape the speaker’s mind. Those extra 750 to 800 words that they haven’t spoken are more complex and organic conversation is more likely to take place. At level four, listening for the unsaid means you’re going to have to become more comfortable with silence. Now, let’s listen to Dr. Tom from episode 27. Listening to silence as it relates to listening to silence across cultures.

Tom Verghese:

Sometimes the message is not in what’s being said, but what’s not being said. The role of silence comes in because there are a lot more gaps in terms of where do I actually respond and what am I listening for. In Western called… construct in Western cultures, person A, person B you and I are speaking, you know, you speak, pause, I speak, then I pause you speak. There is a cue, right, what we call the social cues on how we kind of come in, when do we speak. There are other cultures for instance, where we overlap. We’ll speak on top of each other and that’s okay because we are listening in the process and then there are again other types of cultures where one person speaks, there’s a gap of what three to five seconds before the next person speaks, three to five seconds next person speaks, so the gap of silence is to demonstrate a level of respect.

Tom Verghese:

I’ve heard you, I’m processing what you’ve said and now let me respond, which is in fact very challenging actually for Western leaders I find. One of the things I have to work with senior Western execs is actually to shut up, to keep quiet. I’ll give you a classic example of a client of mine who worked in the banking industry who went to Korea on a meeting, and really the Koreans are much very high context cultures, very relationship based and in the process as he did on reflection, and although we practised it before he went, we talked about it quite a bit. It’s one thing to kind of talk about it. It’s another thing to do it when you’re in the moment and I think he was conscious of the fact afterwards on reflection where he just over spoke it. He just over talked.

Tom Verghese:

He’d ask a question, there’d be a pause and what is going through his head was, oh, maybe they didn’t understand the question, so let me say it another way. Okay. Well, let me say louder. Let me rephrase that rather than just allowing, rather than just to sit in it.

Oscar Trimboli:

Now, although Tom talks about the role of silence across cultures, the only reason we notice it is because we think it’s cultural. We think it’s uniquely cultural. In fact, it’s not. When I’m interviewed in other podcasts, a lot of the interviewers and hosts will ask me about, well, that silence is awkward or they call it a pregnant pause and to the extent I even have to signal before the interview takes place to the host, there will be more silence than you’re used to because I’m just thinking about your question a little bit longer. It’s not like I’m drifting away and most of the podcasts I’ve been interviewed on, the host will actually leave the silence in because it’s a big change in tempo from what they’re used to but others will take the silence out.

Oscar Trimboli:

In the West we always use these phrases, the pregnant pause, the awkward silence, but the reality is, in the East silence is a sign of respect. It’s a sign of wisdom and it’s a sign of authority and I think we’ve lost a little bit of that in the West as well. When I work with clients, when we’re doing workshops, one of the things I always say is treat silence like it’s a word. Listen to it fully, listen to a completely, understand it, respect it because that silence is signalling not only an element of content, but it’s also signalling an element of the context as well. Listen to silence as if you’d listen to another word and you’ll notice when you’re about to launch your interrupting missile, and if you pause and just listen to that silence, you’ll realise that they haven’t stopped speaking, they’re just collecting their thoughts again.

Oscar Trimboli:

Listening to the silence as if you listen to another word will also help you notice the change in the speakers state and then finally your silence will help to still the speaker’s mind. It will help the speaker come to a place where they can commence the journey of their own exploration rather than in your example, Nell where you just went on discovery tour to discover some lands in the future that quite frankly neither of you wanted to go and travel to. It reminds me of one of my favourite cards from the Deep Listening playing card set called Mind the Gap, and Mind the Gap talks to how to listen to silence. Silence helps the speaker stay focused in the dialogue.

Oscar Trimboli:

The question the card poses to me is how can I hold the silence just a little bit longer than I normally would? Now, when we think about the texture inside what’s unsaid, it’s not just the 125-900 rule, that’s a great starting point but as I kind of went back and then through all my consulting assignments, what I’ve written in books and blogs, what we’re putting together and learning from the research, there’s many nuance in what’s unsaid. The first level of unsaid is not being present enough yourself to ask the speaker more of what they’re thinking about. You need to become conscious that they have more to say, yet you’re desperate to make your own point about what they’re exploring or at least you think you do.

Oscar Trimboli:

The next level of consciousness is what we discussed earlier on, it’s the consciousness to say, tell me more. It’s the consciousness to explore the other 800 words. It’s asking them to tell you what they’re thinking about on this topic. Another way to think about the unsaid is being conscious that they have more to say and both you and them need to sit comfortably and confidently in silence, using their silence and using your silence to understand what else is in their thinking, what else is in their thoughts, and then finally, if you think about using silence in the arch of the entire meeting, if you’re in a meeting that’s an hour long, being conscious enough to probe actively around the mid point of the meeting, say the 30 to 35 minute mark and simply ask this question, “What haven’t we discussed that we might want to explore before we finish this meeting today?”

Oscar Trimboli:

We don’t ask that question and for most of us, what we learn is at the end of the meeting as we’re walking out the door, the person will mention something really important. Nell, as we discussed in episode 55 with Heidi Martin, listening to the research, 86% of people are struggling to be present enough to even know that they should be listening for what’s unsaid. The unsaid can show up in one on one discussions, in coffee shops, in conversations. Equally, listening to the unsaid will show up in meetings where there’s more than one person other than you in the meeting. Nell, I’m going to go on to a rant, so bear with me. It’s by far my biggest frustration when it comes to level four listening.

Oscar Trimboli:

It’s the rant about the fact that a leader that could have four to six people in the meeting, they invite four to six people in, and yet all they do is they listen to the loudest, the most expert, the most eloquent, the best storyteller on any particular agenda item. Honestly, if you’ve got six people in the room, ask yourself the question, “How can I explore all the opinions in the room?” Exploring what’s unsaid is not only what that one speaker hasn’t said, but when you’re in a group setting, are you exploring all the opinions in the room? And I’m using that word consistently and explicitly today because too many of us use listening as a way to solve without exploring all the options and we narrow our choices, we narrow our impact and when we talk about an impact beyond words, it’s the essential ingredient in listening to what’s unsaid.

Oscar Trimboli:

To everybody out there who leads a meeting, please, please, please canvas all the opinions in the room and just as important canvas all the opinions that are not in the room. Bring in the customer in the conversation. Bring in the competition in the conversation, bring in the competitor in the conversation, bring in the regulator, bring in everything that’s outside the room to explore that.

Nell Norman-Nott:

I completely agree Oscar, bringing in a customer. I’m going to touch on that point because I think that is really important. It was something I noticed. I worked at Yahoo several years ago and the company was going through really big growth stage. It was [Yahoo7 00:23:03] in [MKR 00:23:03] with lots of different products, doing really well and one thing they did particularly well was customer focus groups. I got to sit in on one of those and see how they facilitated there… went around the room with different members of the audience and solicited their opinion to explore as you’ve beautifully put it when you talked about it previously, what were the things, what were the elements of the site that they utilised and they engaged with and Yahoo is at a totally different stage now, but I believe that the focus groups were really key point in how the organisation was able to grow.

Oscar Trimboli:

Just take us back into that room. What did you notice about the facilitator, because sometimes it can feel a bit robotic if they go literally around the room in the same order but I think a skillful facilitator will probably popcorn around the room and just bounce around the room. What did you notice that facilitator was doing to draw out all opinions not just the loudest ones?

Nell Norman-Nott:

I noticed that particularly because there was someone in the room who was very vocal with their opinions and they did take a lot of the airtime. The facilitator allowed them to get the point across but also held them back in a firm but polite way of just saying the intention was to get everybody’s opinions and in short that everybody did get their voices heard and yeah, it wasn’t a one person speak and then the next person and then the next person. I think is… they built the atmosphere within this scenario within the room. More and more people felt they were able to come forward with their opinions and felt that it was a safe environment to say what they wanted to express.

Oscar Trimboli:

For those of you listening who couldn’t see, Nell was really explicit with the hand gestures as she was describing firm and describing facilitation, so waving her arms around and her hand almost as if this facilitator was a orchestra conductor, bringing out great music from this group of people. Nell, earlier on you touched in your example about the perception of introverts and extroverts in the room. Now, one of the things that brings me great joy is hearing from people who listen to the podcast all around the world and here’s a question posed from [Nicholas 00:25:34].

Nicholas:

Hi Oscar, this is Nicholas from Orange County, California. Thank you for taking my question and I really appreciate your feedback on this. The importance you highlighted of giving those a voice that are more introverted really struck a chord. I would consider myself in the middle of the introvert extrovert spectrum but I have struggled with giving introverts a voice as I’ve had a few experiences that were challenging whereby I projected goals onto employees and supporting them with their development. I didn’t respect the process. Now I even missed the signs that they weren’t communicating the point to the fact that they didn’t want for themselves what I could see in them and had shared with them.

Nicholas:

Unfortunately, even promoted group think in the process indirectly. I’ve seen myself aggressing and gravitating towards more and more vocal members as I found it easier to get feedback from them. I would really appreciate your feedback as to what would be good things to focus on to improve and challenge myself on that.

Oscar Trimboli:

Thanks for the question, Nicholas and it’s a great example of moving from a state of being unconscious in your listening to a place of conscious listening, the pathway to exploring deep listening. A few reflections on your situation. The first one is, in a meeting of more than two other people, as the team leader the most simple thing you can do is to be conscious of the preferences of the other people in the room. Here’s a hack for the introverts. Don’t start always by asking them to speak up front. First step, ask the room to take two or three minutes alone with their own thoughts in their own silence and write down or collect their thoughts. If it’s pen and paper or it’s an electronic stylist, just write down one question that they might want to have or think about as it relates to their professional development plans.

Oscar Trimboli:

This allows people in the room to listen to themselves first, to structure their thinking and for the introverts it reduces the risk of speaking up in the room. The next step is when you’ve got them to finish writing down, get them to pair up and chat to the person next to them. This will reduce the risk of embarrassment or people who lack confidence. In a group setting are very comfortable they speak in a one on one setting. This ramps up the trust a little bit further between you and them but also helps them to kind of test their thinking in a really safe environment. The third step is to ask the group to notice and reflect on the conversation without necessarily revealing what was the content, so a skilled leader at this point will ask the confident speakers to reflect on what they heard and using this ramping technique of trust, Nicholas, your room will move at its own pace and it will make its own progress but more importantly you’ll hear what matters to them.

Oscar Trimboli:

Nicholas, a lot of people say to me, “Gee Oscar, this takes time. This takes so long. Why would I go to all this effort?” And then I say to them, “Hey, what’s the cost of not doing it?” As you’ve pointed out, Nicholas, going faster than the group has bigger costs than taking a little bit of extra time at the beginning. Rather than having a room where you say, “Hey guys, what do you think about on this topic?” And only have the confident speakers speaking up, which still might take up 10 minutes, you’ll have a complete total trusted group perspective in under 15 minutes. For that five extra minutes, I think it’s completely worth it. Hey Nicholas, let me know if you apply this technique and what happened in the room as a result of you doing that.

Nell Norman-Nott:

Hey Oscar. I was just thinking as you were talking about introverts and extroverts, don’t you have that great story about the travelling exec?

Oscar Trimboli:

Yeah. One of my clients was sharing a story with me about a travelling exec who didn’t instil trust, didn’t explore and his favourite party trick was after he visited a geography somewhere in the world. He would host the local leadership team at a dinner and based on his interactions with them on the day, basically point out to them almost like a magician’s trick saying, you’re an introvert, you’re an extrovert all the way around the room and guess what happened. Despite the fact whether they’re introverts or extroverts in that moment, those labels that that leader put on them completely stifled the conversation at dinner, it was awkward to say the least. People felt compelled to align to the leaders behaviour. Labels are useful until they’re not and this is a great example of where labels really aren’t useful.

Nell Norman-Nott:

It’s a strange thing to do because from what I understand about being an introvert, I feel I much more resonate with being a little bit introverted than extroverted although people don’t necessarily perceive that when they meet me, is that it’s about where you get your energy from and I believe I’m more of a, can get my energy in my own space, whereas what I understand about extroverts, Oscar correct me if I’m wrong, is that they get their energy from being around groups of people and say how someone else could perceive that from just a one on one interactions baffles me completely.

Oscar Trimboli:

When you ask the global expert on introverts, Susan Cain, top 20 TED Talk on introverts, she talks about the fact that ask people what they do on their weekend and that will quickly signal to you how they get their energy. So, on the weekend if you like to curl up in front of the fire when reading a book, that’s a pretty good sign and if you like to be around others and have a party every weekend or a dinner party or you like to be out and about there’s another sign about where you get your energy as well. I think all of us just need to be careful with labels.

Oscar Trimboli:

Nell, imagine being a mediator in a high conflict environment and where each party is threatening the other with legal action, and imagine doing that every day. All the parties to the conflict have well rehearsed stories in their mind about why they’re right and why the other party’s wrong and not only why they’re wrong, but why they’ve wronged me. In these situations, tension is really high. The opportunity for misunderstanding is rife and the likelihood that each person is listening to the other is near on zero. This is a situation where Lise Barry found herself in episode 35 and what she does and what she explains is how to create strong early foundations of trust and listening for everybody in the room and as she’s the expert in [inaudible 00:33:16], let’s listen to how she did it. Lise, how do you explore what’s unsaid as each participant makes their initial statements?

Lise Barry:

In the initial phases, I don’t do a lot of exploration because that’s not the purpose and in a sense it’s not for me to understand what’s going on underneath. It’s for the other party to understand that. My questions to both parties, I need to be careful that it’s not about my curiosity, that I’m not trying to fill something in myself or relate. If I was to ask sort of detailed questions, they would probably be based on my experience and my experience is not relevant there. My questions in terms of anything that’s not said, I always try to frame them to help the parties understand each other rather than me to understand the parties if that makes sense.

Oscar Trimboli:

Nell, did you see Lise making the deep listening ninja move here. Lise makes the point that she’s there to help the parties listen to themselves rather than to listen to each other and for Lise to understand what the parties are saying. This is what I mentioned regularly to you Nell, saying deep listening, it’s actually easy. It’s light, it’s simple and if your orientation is to help the speaker to understand what they’re saying and help them explore the situations they’re in to discover what they haven’t discovered so far, it makes listening a really simple easy task because your focus is on them.

Oscar Trimboli:

If the 125–400 rule is the science of listening and listening for the unsaid is the art of listening, listening for the unsaid is subtle yet it’s potent. Now, when we talk about ignoring people because our beliefs, our history, our experience that our assumptions don’t align with them reminds me of two stories that sit around the same event, the 2008 global financial crisis. Both stories Nell are from people who were saying there was a huge issue in 2005, which is nearly three years before the event happened. Two different people from two completely different industries, not bankers. Dr. Michael Burry, he was a trained medical doctor and he became a hedge fund manager and then Dr. Raghuram Rajan, an economist from the International Monetary Fund.

Oscar Trimboli:

Each of them were warning their surrounding communities of a pending disaster coming and trillions, not billions, trillions of dollars right now it’s $4.6 trillion is the cost of the global financial crisis and people are still counting now, but this is a story about how your assumptions block any idea, any concept or any thought from going any further. Now, it’s August 27 2005, it was a glorious crisp sunny day in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, more famous for its winter time snow skiing. State between two mountain ranges in the valley is a beautiful location, a venue where the annual central bankers event takes place. It’s hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and a bit of trivia, it’s hosted there because the first time they ever had it there, the person they were trying to get to the event was a well-known trout fishermen and it was a really good trout fishing location.

Oscar Trimboli:

Imagine a whole bunch of central bankers, about 280 of them on this day are sitting in a room and up stands at about 10:00 AM, a 42 year old vegetarian who reads Tolkien and Tolstoy. Tolkien from Lord of the Rings and Tolstoy from many, many, many very long novels. He’s got a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and he’s about to deliver the most important speech of all the presentations in the 27 year history of this economic symposium. Rajan basically said that a pending disaster was about to happen. He said, “We’re living in well run houses where the plumbing is blocked. Not only is it blocked, is corroded by poor incentives and the system and a whole bunch of the wrong stuff is backing up in the piping and about to explode.” Yes, Nell, you can smell that already, can’t you?

Nell Norman-Nott:

What a vision.

Oscar Trimboli:

And he’s a really articulate speaker. He’s gone on to be central bank governor for India but this smell that Rajan is referring to is $4.6 trillion worth of wasted money, about 100,000 for every person who lives in the United States. That’s a lot of money, but that cost is all around the world with this catastrophic meltdown but in a room of who’s who of the central banking industry, including ones from Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany, the youngest, they have a chief economist of the IMF, and the first one from India was being criticised heavily because he was going against the prevailing dogma of the era, so who were the dissenting brooms in a voice full of academic central bankers?

Oscar Trimboli:

Journalists? Larry Summers, the U.S. treasury secretary reported in the Wall Street Journal the next day said, “The basic and slightly Luddite premise of Mr. Rajan’s paper is misguided.” And there are a wide variety of misguided policy assumptions implied. Could the financial crisis been avoided if people in the room had listened to Rajan’s presentation? Maybe, maybe not, but we’ll never know because his presentation was ignored. He was a great example of the unsaid and yet there were other dissenting voices at the same point in time, Dr. Michael Burry, a hedge fund manager with his own organisation called Scion Capital, commenced researching the subprime market in 2005.

Oscar Trimboli:

He used detailed and painstaking research methods taught to him as a doctor and it became quickly evident to him that the magnitude of the issue despite telling the most sophisticated and largest global investment banks from all around the world of the pending issue, Burry would be ignored because his approach was distinctly different and very much more detailed than what everybody had thought. He literally had a spreadsheet of every subprime home. There were many lines in those spreadsheets. Nell, he literally went through them line by line by line over a six month period to discover what was the impending doom. Whether we meet someone or whether we hear someone in a group setting or whether we read about them, sometimes we tend not to listen to their view or their perspective only because it’s different to ours. Look Nell, for most of us it’s very difficult to believe that the conversations we have we’ll have a $4 trillion impact. Yet for each of us, the impact is significant when we don’t listen to others.

Oscar Trimboli:

How quick are you to dismiss the opinions of others in your organisation, maybe because they haven’t been trained the way you have. Maybe they come from a different profession, maybe they come from a different ethnic background to yours and maybe they’re sailing against prevailing wisdom of the crowd. The cost of not listening to Rajan and Burry’s are $4 trillion. Dismissing opinions lacks curiosity, it lacks that exploration we were talking about earlier on Nell. The consequences can be just as devastating and disastrous whether it’s for individuals, teams or organisations. Listening for the unsaid is often blocked by your own dogma, by your own assumptions and by your own experience.

Oscar Trimboli:

Sometimes listening for what is unsaid is the most counterintuitive thing to do, and if you’re in that titanic battle with your own mind to make sense of their argument, use that as a signal to explore a little bit further rather than that to become ammunition for you to fire your argument against the other person. Ask yourself a simple yet potent question. This was taught to me by a great teacher of mine. In what situations might my assumptions be false? And honestly, Nell, that’s a question I ask myself every day when I think about creating 100 million deep listeners in the world, and can you bring about more change by trying to teach them how to speak, it’s something I dance with all the time.

Oscar Trimboli:

Now, the next level of listening for the unsaid is being conscious enough to notice that they have more to say and yet most of us are so desperate that our tongue is pushing its way throughout our teeth. We’re bursting to make a point.

Nell Norman-Nott:

We’ve got a listener quote, which encapsulates exactly what you said. Let’s listen to that right now.

Questioner:

When I struggle with my listening is I sometimes step on other people’s pauses with my own ideas.

Oscar Trimboli:

Wow, Nell. How well does this listener explain all of our realities when it comes to interruption?

Nell Norman-Nott:

I can really relate to this quote, Oscar because the interrupting listener is my listing villain. I particularly liked the way that she has explained so beautifully how interruption can literally crush someone else’s words and I can think of many instances where I’ve been in a conversation and like you say, are bursting to say something and I say it and then it kind of falls… the conversation falls dead because I’ve clearly interrupted what they were saying and their thoughts and in doing so probably made them feel like what they were saying wasn’t important to me and my point maybe wasn’t even as interesting as what they were going to say anyways.

Nell Norman-Nott:

I think this is just a beautiful little statement that really encapsulates what you do when you interrupt someone. The listening villains, Oscar, we need to do an episode about them because we’ve talked about them a lot in many episodes and we haven’t done an episode to explain them. What do you reckon?

Oscar Trimboli:

Oh, well, here we go again. This happened with the research episode. Yes, Nell we’re going to do an episode on the four villains of listening, the dramatic, the interrupting, the lost and the shrewd listener. My favourite quote is once you’ve learned your listening villain, it’s as if it’s tattooed on your brain and you can never go back. You can never unlearn it and whether that’s in a workshop or people reading a book, it’s the concept that brings deep listening to life.

Nell Norman-Nott:

I think explaining the villains of listening… so those struggles that are most common in all of us is relevant to answer many people’s questions. Like Joanne’s different but related question about silence.

Joanne:

Hi Oscar. It’s Joanne here from Coffs Harbour. I was hoping that you would be able to share a tip regarding a media of listening and that’s sitting in the moment with what someone else has said rather than jumping in and responding or even sometimes speaking over the other person maybe thinking that you know what they’re about to say, so jumping in and answering or finishing that sentence, so yeah. Is there a tip that you can share where it makes it easier to sit with it, take it in without feeling awkward about that without it being an awkward silence. Thanks Oscar.

Oscar Trimboli:

Nell, I know you have a really simple technique here and I’m pretty sure it’s going to help Joanne out.

Nell Norman-Nott:

Yes. Oscar, we talked about silence a little bit earlier on and being silent and acknowledging that pause was something I struggled with because as I just mentioned being an interrupter, it didn’t come that easy for me to sit in silence. The technique I came up with a little while ago, was simply to use counting and to count to three in the pause. It feels awkward at first as you mentioned previously, it’s that pregnant pause. I’ve found over time just using that technique, it’s gotten easier and easier and I don’t need to count in all scenarios, but when I know I feel that burning to talk to interrupt someone, I can use that technique to bring myself back to how I should be listening and how it should be respecting the other person in the conversation. Oscar, what else do you recommend?

Oscar Trimboli:

Joanne, I’d say treat silence as if it was another word. It’s a tip I give everybody when it comes to listening to the silence. That means listening to silence fully, completely, respectfully. Listening to silence from its beginning, its middle and its end, and in doing so you’ll become comfortable with silence. Let’s listen in to quite a different situation where you’ve got people from many different language backgrounds in the same meeting.

Marlise:

Hi Oscar. This is Marlise from Amsterdam. I loved your anecdote about the eagle versus sneak meeting. As I’m a teacher and it’s so easy to listen to the people who speak up that I tend to forget to listen to the silent ones while they might have the best ideas.

Oscar Trimboli:

Thanks Marlise. This is a great question and speaks well to listening in groups and exploring what’s on the mind of everyone, especially those who are quiet. Notice that the orientation of your question and where it’s coming from is actually coming from you Marlise, so think about how you construct questions to help them. I’m going to assume you’re in a teaching environment here and where speaking up is really an important part of language and skill development. In this case, listening to what they have to say is just as important as how they say it. Marlise, just rewind and listen to the tips we provided a little bit earlier for Nicholas as well. How do you build up trust across the room where people reflect by themselves, speak to somebody next to them and then reflect back to the room.

Oscar Trimboli:

Before I explore that in a little more depth, I want to take a different perspective on this question because it’s a common question. Nicholas asked about this in his question and Marlise, you’ve asked about it too, and in two out of three executive coaching assignments or workshops that I do, I get briefed by the leaders about who they perceive are the introverts and who they perceive are the extroverts and I’d like you to think about a different perspective. I think people speak about their perceptions of introverts and extroverts in absolute terms. I’m an extrovert, they’re an introvert, but here’s a different perspective, because for me, if I’m in a room full of accountants, actuaries or astronomers, some people would say I’m an extrovert but for me in a room full of actors, auctioneer’s, advertising executives, I’d probably be considered an introvert.

Oscar Trimboli:

I don’t think it’s enough for us just to say they’re an introvert or an extrovert. We need to be conscious of what’s possible and that people have some flexibility. Another way to draw introverts in to a dialogue sounds completely counterintuitive. Get the extroverts to speak more. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Did you just say that Oscar?” Yeah, I did and here’s why. Just like everybody else, extroverts need the extra time to explore those other 800 words stuck in their head, so ask them. Let the introverts ask these questions. Tell me more. What else? Is there anything else you’re thinking about? And in doing this, you’re revealing more layers in the thinking, but not only in the thinking of the person speaking, but the people in the room get to explore these layers as well.

Oscar Trimboli:

Ask the room to reflect on what the extrovert said rather than to ask them to tell you what they’re thinking about, this will create trust once more. It creates more places for the introvert to connect with the discussion. It reduces risks for them and it helps create meaning not just for them but for the room. Now, Nell there is a danger. Be careful. Don’t keep saying, tell me more. Tell me more. Tell me more because it could get a bit boring. It could get a bit stuck as well, so we want to make this a really productive hack. Think about these three simple questions. Tell me more. What else and is there anything else? And watch the speakers responses but equally as a leader in the room, you want to watch how the rest of the room responds to how the speaker is speaking.

Oscar Trimboli:

Watch for the nonverbal engagements not just the verbal engagements. Using your eyes, notice their eyes, notice their body posture. Draw the mean. Use an open hand gesture to make a request just like using a magic wand and drawing them into the conversation and in doing so you’ll be able to help the room listen to itself just by asking the introvert to speak a little bit longer. Marlise, here’s three more tips for your teaching context and for you to help explore the perspectives of the room. One, explain well in advance to the room that you’re going to be asking questions. Nobody likes a cold-call. This gives us time to prepare and for those who are introvert even more deeply.

Oscar Trimboli:

Explain the value of the questions and the comments and how they’re going to be used by the group and why it’s important that we can learn from each other and why these questions create an alternative perspective rather than just questions creating a sense of right or wrong or good or bad. Walk as close as you can when you ask the question. Move your eye level to theirs and if you know that they’re an introvert by nature, maybe you can lower your volume and whisper the question. By doing so, that will make it hard for the rest of the room to hear and they’ll lean in and pay more attention. Make a reflection about their response rather than making a reflection on the response. This will be valuable for the rest of the room.

Oscar Trimboli:

Introverts value quality, introverts value depth, so if your reflection includes are a reference to what they actually said, they feel validated, they trust you more, they speak up more as well. With this encouragement, most people will feel validated enough to speak up consistently. Marlise, finally use language based devices that help people detach from the content or the context. Ask them if this topic was a book, how they would describe the book rather than speaking about it through the lens of themselves or if it was a movie, what kind of movie would it be? Or if they were an animal, what kind of animal would they be, or if they were a character in a story, what character would they play? In being able to detach, people start to feel more comfortable in explaining what they think about on the topic.

Oscar Trimboli:

In reducing risk and building up trust, you can bring people into the conversation more often. Look, Marlise, this can’t always be the case but you might even get people to cut up magazines of pictures in front of you and get them to talk about what this topic means through the picture they’ve cut up as well. That’s another technique that I know is used well by market researchers and anthropologists. Some people have even used LEGO blocks of different colours, shapes, and sizes to draw these people in and I use the jigsaw puzzle and playing cards as well.

Oscar Trimboli:

Nell, kind of reminds me of your story about Ying. We talked about much, much earlier on where someone’s struggling to speak in a language that’s not their home language.

Nell Norman-Nott:

Completely Oscar. I was thinking the same thing. I went to high school in London and I talked in episode 50 about my friend Ying who joined the high school from China and Ying spoke no English at all when she joined my school, but she loved to draw and so did I. One technique we used to communicate was via drawing, and to draw you’d need to be very understanding about what it is you want to say. You need to be very reflective about the exact things that you’re trying to get across because it takes a lot longer. You can’t really waffle in a drawing.

Oscar Trimboli:

Or fuss.

Nell Norman-Nott:

Or fuss. With that technique Ying and I were able to communicate without using language until she did learn English and she very quickly. It just made me think that in the case with Marlise although she doesn’t talk about what age group she’s teaching, I feel that that kind of graphical representation of what someone’s trying to say could be used in a number of different scenarios with children and also with adults.

Oscar Trimboli:

So, Marlise, hopefully we’ve provided you with a great range of things for you to consider about how to use different techniques to bring listening to life for those who aren’t comfortable speaking up.

Oscar Trimboli:

Becoming connected and comfortable with silence is important not just for you but also for them. I’ve had the opportunity to interview anthropologist Michelle Barry. Anthropology is the study of humans, their behaviours and how they connect across groups, families and societies. Anthropologists listen for patterns to make sense of the world. Michelle does a lot of her work in organisations that sell food and dining experience, trying to understand how humans interact. Now, Michelle, explained to me how people interact completely differently at a birthday celebration depending on whether there’s a birthday cake or there’s cupcakes, whether they need to be cut up or whether they need to be handed out.

Oscar Trimboli:

There’s much more community around birthdays when you have to cut up a birthday cake compared to the clean and clinical cupcakes that people hand out on their birthdays as well. There arise a point because Michelle makes a great point about listening for the unsaid and staying in the silence. What advice do you give the people you train to listen to what’s unsaid and how do you pause and help groups and interviews to explore what’s unsaid?

Michelle Barry:

I think with anthropologists we’re also supposed to be interviewers, so the temptation is that when there’s a lull in the conversation that we fill it with the next question and I think that having the ability to have a pause the… possibly very uncomfortably pregnant, that’s when interesting things happen. A lot of our interviews are conducted on tape and as soon as we turn the recording off, that’s when the actual real conversations begin. That’s when they feel that they’re being heard most, I think, and willing to be more revealing.

Michelle Barry:

I think a lot of what I say to them is be uncomfortable, you know, be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Let that quiet get a little just to the edge of uncomfortable and turn your recorders off because that’s the safety or the threat of not being able to speak that it’s somehow recorded and irrevocable… is scary and I think as an anthropologist when you’re interviewing and documenting and specifically with the intention of telling the stories, it chokes people up. There’s too much fear in that, once I’ve said it, I can’t reel it back in, so we do about half of our interviews with the camera off and the second half of the interview is usually what we’re more inclined to use because the trust has been established, the comfort’s been established and the context has been established.

Oscar Trimboli:

Now, this is a fairly common issue. Learning to become comfortable with the silence not just noticing silence existed, but being comfortable. Let’s hear from Lucy about what happened to her when she heard me on another podcast where I was being interviewed and she downloaded the five myths of listening and this was the impact for Lucy.

Lucy:

Hi Oscar. This is Lucy from London and I’m a fairly new director of a charity, so there’s lots for me to still learn. I’m aware I can go into problem solving more quickly and get distracted in particularly longer conversations, and I really wanted to be truly present and to truly listen, so I took some of the tips I’d learned, I decluttered before the conversation, turned my phone off, turned off my computer screen, I didn’t read a single email prior to the meeting, so I wasn’t in a mind frame of being kind of reactive. I wanted to be totally present, and during the conversation I have a tendency of kind of chipping in and trying to problem solve or make someone’s life better by presenting my ideas, but instead I just listened. I asked questions, gave them a chance to explore what they wanted to say and go a bit deeper into what they were trying to say.

Lucy:

I tried to pick up on cues of when or when they may not be finished, so something I’m not good at is long silences, but I played with this and yeah, allow some space for silence to just make sure that that sentence or that part of that conversation was truly finished before we moved onto the next thing and to be honest this had a really good impact. We had a deep and rich conversation and she’s got away feeling quite encouraged and motivated, so thanks Oscar.

Nell Norman-Nott:

It’s great to hear so many voices from around the world. I loved that comment from Lucy. Very genuine and heartfelt question. Also familiar voice for me being someone from London. Oscar, Lucy makes a great point. I also noted that she’s downloaded the listening myths and for other listeners who would like to access that, simply go to oscartrimboli.com/listeningmyths, and now I know you love getting these messages, Oscar and I do too. For those of you out there who would also like to share your questions or your comments to us, I encourage you to do so. Send us a voice recording to hello@oscartrimboli.com or simply go to the website and you will be able to leave a voice message there.

Oscar Trimboli:

So, Nell, let’s bring it all together and let’s listen to Joe Lee who reflects on silence from episode 30. In episode 30 I had the opportunity to speak to Kathy LeMay, who’s raised over a hundred million dollars for charity in her words, by radically listening.

Julie:

Hi, this is Julie 01:03:17 from Illinois. The episode with Kathy LeMay particularly resonated with me. She was talking about teaching a group of people how to listen. The assignment was to listen to a person speak without interrupting them. The group found it somewhat difficult not to interrupt the person. It made me realise that is what I do. I want to jump right in with my solution to help them.

Kathy LeMay:

And what Kris Graham taught me well and does so well is she believed in building a community of people that rallied behind something and if you want a community you have to know who’s in it and you got to take the time, so she has taught me to slow down and take the time. What it took me a bit to get is it can be really awkward to listen and not interrupt. It can sometimes feel really, really uncomfortable and you so badly want to go, oh no, no, no, I said this thing but is [inaudible 01:04:18] I just did a fundraising training with this wonderful group of fundraisers in Victoria, Canada and I had them paired off with each other and I gave them two questions and said, “So just take some time to think about how you want to answer to that.”

Kathy LeMay:

Person A is going to ask, person B is going to respond and I looked at person A and I said, “So look at me person A, no matter what they say, no interrupting and they all looked at me like, I’m not going to interrupt [Kat 01:04:42], reel it in.” And I knew that within less than 60 seconds the person would… and I watch people put their hand over their mouth and then the person who was sharing was hysterically laughing and afterwards I said, “So how was that and everyone said, “Oh so hard.” But it was not interrupting out of any arrogance. It was enthusiasm. Oh my goodness, I had the same experience. Oh my goodness, I can’t wait to share and what I say to people is, I promised you’ll get your turn. I promise you’ll get your turn, but often if you ask someone one question, much like Oscar, you’ve asked me, I start answering and it’s not until I’m a few minutes in, then I think of something else that I want to share that I hope that just emerged to me that I thought, I haven’t thought about that in forever.

Kathy LeMay:

There’s unbelievably great gems inside people. If you can just like pinch your wrist or something to prevent you from interrupting in the first two minutes, it won’t feel that awkward to really deeply listen to someone and most people will say if they have a death of a loved one or a really bad challenge at work or something going on that’s a big deal and you listen, you don’t have to fix or have a solution. Most people will say to you later on, thanks so much for listening that helped a lot, and so knowing there’s nothing I can fix in people’s lives and it’s not my job, but what I can do is radically listen and in that may be build that community that we all say we kind of need to get us through this world.

Oscar Trimboli:

Like any other muscle, the more you practise with silence the more range you get, the more power you get when it comes to silence. Silence doesn’t have to be awkward. You just have to encourage yourself to explore silence and become more playful with it. As I go into one of the deep listening playing cards, this is a deep listening playing cards for listening for what’s unsaid. Listening at the level four. It says silence. Listen to silence as if you would to listen to another word. Listen to silence so it helps the speaker’s mind catch up with their thoughts and the question it poses here is, “Can I hold the silence just a little bit longer than I normally would?” If you’d like to check out those cards, visit oscartrimboli.com/cards and you can grab the deep listening playing cards there as well.

Oscar Trimboli:

Now, unfortunately most people aren’t proactive when exploring what’s unsaid. They wait too long, they wait till it’s too late or they don’t have the courage to prompt for it. My simple tip would be this, prompt for the unsaid halfway through a meeting. If it’s a 30 minute meeting, ask at the 15 minute mark. If it’s a 60 minute meeting, ask at the 30 minute mark. If it’s a full day meeting, prompt this question at the 50% mark or the lunch time in the agenda. Given the time we have left, is there anything else we should explore that we haven’t or given the time we have left, where should we focus or given the time we have left, what’s left that we should really discuss?

Oscar Trimboli:

This is a two part move. Why you need to feel comfortable with silence and why you need to just wait. Why you need to let them explore their thinking and don’t prompt them, don’t give them a multiple choice question as if they’re appearing on a TV quiz show. Just use the silence. In a group setting, it takes a skillful chair or leader to balance this dynamic around silence and creating a dynamic that is productive and exploring and while you’re wandering what else could we explore in the time we have available in this episode, let’s hear from Dr. Bronwyn King who discusses what happens to her at the end of the meeting just as she’s about to get into the elevator when she travels around the boardrooms of the financial world.

Dr. Bronwyn K.:

On a similar note, when you’re saying I’m listening to things that are not being said, what has been very interesting with many of the leaders I meet is that I sense that many of them want to tell me a story. They want to tell me about their family or friends who’ve suffered from tobacco and they’re certainly not going to lead with that but I can often feel that they want to mention that and it’s funny because usually they don’t say that during the meeting. They’ll tell me in the hallway or outside the lift as I walk me out and that’s one of the reasons why I often say you really do need to go and see people because even though you could have a virtual meeting and they could pop up on a screen, they just pop up and then they go away but the real magic happens just before or just after the meeting, not during the meeting itself.

Oscar Trimboli:

Listening for the unsaid, the ultimate deep listening ninja move. Here’s three takeaways from level four. Listening for the unsaid. The first, be conscious of the 125–400 rule. They speak at 125 words a minute, yet they can think at 900 words a minute. Tip number two, get comfortable and consistent with these three simple questions. Tell me more. What else? Is there anything else? And finally, treat silence like you would another word. Listen to it fully, listen to it completely and treat silence as if it’s a word.

Oscar Trimboli:

Listen to the beginning of that word, the middle of that word and the end of that word. It will be easier to listen to silence. The more you practise and the more comfortable you get with this. Nell and I love to listen to what you have to say, so please send through email messages with questions or comments or observations. We’d love to listen to you. Here’s a great example. Let’s listen to [Gina 01:11:24] about the difference listening has made for her after reading the Deep Listening book.

Gina:

Hi Oscar. It’s Gina from London. I would love to thank you. I was exposed to your listening ideas at the UK Marketing Academy and I’ve been listening ever since and I mean really listening. In fact, my husband and I had a real breakthrough moment when I listened and really heard him this week. Now he’s different, man. Thank you. You’ve made me a better leader and person.

Oscar Trimboli:

Thank you to you for listening to the Deep Listening podcast. It takes a village to raise a child and for us to achieve our quest of 100 million deep listeners in the world, we need to create a tribe of deep listeners in the world. Thank you for becoming one of those. If I could ask one thing from each of you, it would be to share the Deep Listening podcast with one other person. Doing some really simple maths I figured out that if everybody shared the Deep Listening podcast with one person who hadn’t listened to it, we could get to 100 million listeners in only 36 months. If you’d like to make a difference beyond words, I’d love you to introduce the Deep Listening podcast to someone you think could become a better listener. Thanks for listening.

Oscar Trimboli:

Hi, it’s Oscar, and if you’re still listening now, you’re probably a really loyal deep listener. I’m building an online training programme for managers in organisations, so if you’re a manager inside an organisation of more than 500 employees, I’d love you to reach out to me. Just send me an email that’s podcast@oscartrimboli.com, podcast@oscartrimboli.com. We want to involve you in prototyping this online course and you’ll get lifetime access to this course as one of the prototypers. We’re only looking for five people to participate in this prototyping exercise and your input will ensure that what we’re building is something that we’re listening to and helpful for you. Thanks for listening.

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