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  • Paul Haxell

Listening?

Updated: Jul 15, 2020

Are you really listening, and for what purpose?


In my expanding portfolio of business coaching I am finding myself spending large amounts of time listening. Listening with volition, listening with intent in order that I can understand the situation properly.


Listening like all skills needs to be practiced, however if we repeated only listen in a half-hearted way, we create a habit and progressively become an increasingly poor listener. That is then compounded by the increasing time and business pressures that we all experience and over time our listening ability regresses further. I have experienced that situation and can balance the view with the benefit of the power of focused practice to re awaken my listening skills.


Listening is a key skill often underrated, frequently poorly implemented.


If we don’t listen fully, we will not gain a complete understanding. If understanding is poor or limited our response, be it words of guidance and encouragement, support, advice or a proposed course of action, will most likely not be as well received as we had hoped.

Many consider listening on a binary scale- we are ether listening, or we are not. However, it is more likely that our listening is somewhere on a scale between superficial and deep listening. Conversational and active/ attentive listening are the intermediate steps on the scale shared by Julie Starr in The Coaching Manual.


At the superficial level there is little focus on the conversation or the person – it might look as though we are listening, yet our mind is somewhere else. We might even nod and add the occasional supportive word, but we are just pretending to listen. Asked what has just said and we are likely to be unable to respond.


In general conversation our focus may move as we cycle through listening, thinking, talking, listening and so on. Our focus on the individual and their message will vary, and we may also lose track from time to time.


As an attentive listener we are more likely to have an intention to stay focused on what the other person is saying. It is likely we will need to recap, use clarifying questions, repeating items back to the speaker as we build our understanding. We might find it help to take notes, however whilst we are writing our listening will be less focussed.


In deep listening you are likely to be using more of your senses detecting changes in tone, posture, the specific language and detecting other messages that are being used that together provide a far richer and complete message. We need to be attentive, present in the moment clear of other thoughts and have a sponge like approach to soak up all the information coming our way. Our ability to sustain this form of listening may be limited if we only use it occasionally. If we do find that other thoughts enter our mind it may be easier to acknowledge them. We can then return renewing our focus on the conversation having cleared our mind of the distractions.


Why not take moment after your next dialogue and consider were you where on the scale (surficial – deep)? Then ask yourself was that appropriate for the conversation and consider what effect that might have had on the person you were “listening” to. After all the first stage in making any change is to acknowledge to yourself where you are.

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