One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is to listen without putting your own slant on what is being said. Some would say to truly understand we need to listen from our heart instead of our head. Pick a point on the wall then bring your attention back from that point concentrating on what is out on the sides until you get to the edge of your peripheral vision. Focus out on the edge of your vision for a few minutes and listen to what is being said. You may notice that the voices have a bit of an echo and are a bit louder than you are used to. After a few minutes re-focus your vision back to the front. Have a go at doing it in a busy place and see if you are able to hear more conversations. When you are watching TV or on the phone practice turning off your internal chatter and listen to what is being said. After some regular practice you will find that you are actually listening to what is being said instead of what you think is being said based on your fields of reference. You may find that you will want to gather your thoughts before replying to someone in a conversation, a very short pause is fine as it gives everyone time to take a breath and let the last point/statement/comment sink in.
When you need to clarify what you heard, start your statement with “so what I heard you say was……is that correct?” We constantly filter the information that we hear based on the following Culture Language Beliefs Values Attitudes Expectations Intentions These filters through which we listen create the reality of what we believe is being said, which may be totally different to what was intended. The following steps can help you to improve your listening skills.
1. Silence For 3 minutes everyday re-set your ears and listen for the quiet
2. Mixer When you are in a busy area with lots of noise see how many individual channels you can hear, tune into the separate parts of the noise.
3. Savouring Enjoy everyday mundane sounds, listen for the patterns and subtleties, listen for the hidden choir.
4. Change your listening positions Active to Passive Reductive to Expansive Critical to Empathetic
The goal is to truly listen to what is being said which in turn will enhance your ability to create rapport and when needed help others to discover solutions. Talk a little less and listen more. Less advice is often the best advice. People don’t need lots of advice; they need a listening ear and some positive reinforcement. What they want to know is often already somewhere inside of them. They just need time to think, be and breathe, and continue to explore the undirected journeys that will eventually help them find their direction.
Written by Richard Groom, Director PF Agribusiness