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Listening: Seven Tools For Doing It Well

Listening involves more than you think! It takes work, focus, time, and energy. Are you up for the task? How important is it really? Learn seven critical tools for good listening!

Here is a scenario I see play out in my office over and over again: one spouse wishes the other would speak up more. They are frustrated thinking that the other doesn’t really care to make the relationship work because they won’t talk. I have seen wives who wish their husbands would talk more and husbands who wished the same of their wives. I have seen parents who wish their teens would talk more or team leaders who are frustrated because they can only get a few of their group members to share their ideas. What’s wrong? Why does this happen?

I can tell you one of THE biggest factors has to do with listening.

I shared a PLEDGEtalk Facebook post this week, that said: “Listen and Silent are spelled with the same letters. Think about it.”

The person in front of you–whether it is your spouse, your daughter, or the team–won’t believe you are ready and willing to listen unless you are silent.

That means:

  1. you are looking intently at them.
  2. you will be sure not to have a frown on your face but an expression that portrays the idea that you care what they have to say.
  3. you will be patient, for as long as it takes for them to gather their thoughts. And when they do begin talking, you will do everything you can to make sure you don’t interrupt or interject. Instead, you will work hard to stay focused on each word and sentence that comes out of their mouth.
  4. you will wonder and maybe ask why they chose the words they did to describe how they are feeling or to explain their perspective on a matter.
  5. you will be intrigued with what they are saying while at the same time actively putting your own thoughts and reactions up on a shelf in your mind. Note I did not say put them under a rug to be buried, but up on a shelf for later. Your ideas, your reactions can’t be your focus–not if you are listening. Makes sense?
  6. you will keep working at putting your reactions on the shelf while staying SILENT and listening.
  7. And the only time you will speak is for the purpose of clarifying what the other has said or echoing back to make sure you heard correctly.

THAT is real listening!

When a person finally gets the experience of someone genuinely listening, they believe they matter and find their voice!

Now a few words of caution:

  • You may try using the seven tools above and not see the same intended results as I get. Don’t despair or give up. Remember I have been doing this for years as my profession! Go back through the list above to see if you missed anything and keep working at it. It also might take the quiet person awhile to believe that you really are sincere.
  • You may use any or all of the above tools and see quick results. Beware. If these tools are not already part of who you are, you will quickly forget them, fall into old patterns, and watch the person in front of you once again fade away into silence. If this happens, take note, admit what you just did (i.e. interrupted, or reacted, or grew impatient, etc.) and ask them if they would continue to share while you work once again at listening well.
  • You may grow weary or discouraged when you see how much work it takes to really listen well. You may even be tempted to think “if I have to go through all of that and more just to find out what another person is thinking, it’s not worth it. What they have to say must not be all that important.” You couldn’t be farther from the truth. Rather, they are like a mine full of precious jewels just waiting to be discovered!

Most of the breakthroughs I see in my office between spouses, or between parents and a child come when they learn to really listen. When truly listening, we give the gift of being heard. It’s when tears are most apt to appear, and real connection begins!

Think of the last time you felt really heard by someone. What was it they did to make you feel that way?  Let me know below!! I always appreciate your comments–it is encouraging to me as I feel like I am being heard!  :)

(Thanks to www.123rf.com for picture: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_iqoncept’>iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo</a>)
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A Simple Way To Increase Respect In Your Relationships:

You and I both learned an important life lesson at a very early age: take turns.

If you have children you teach it all the time. One is playing with a toy, when another child comes along and grabs it because he wants to play with it. The first child cries or reacts in anger as she grabs the toy back, and a fight quickly ensues. As fast as we can, we jump in between the children and say: “you two need to take turns!”

How does this relate to better communication at work and at home?

At Work With Your Team:

Think back on your last team meeting. What went well? What didn’t?

Two way communication is critical for a team to succeed – where everyone understands the importance of each one sharing AND listening. All too often before one person has the chance to finish what they are saying, another jumps in on top of them with a different thought. Soon another does the same and another. Ideas, even good ones, are missed because people aren’t taking turns really listening to each other. Even when someone is able to share their entire thought without being interrupted, a very similar experience occurs as soon as there is silence – someone quickly jumps in to share their idea and then another follows suit and another.

What if there was a different norm? A question or idea is brought to the group’s attention, for the purpose of discussion and gaining further insight. The first person speaks up and has everyone else’s full attention. When finished speaking, it is obvious others are reflecting on what has been said. Questions are asked of the speaker to clarify or draw out additional ideas. Important takeaways are duly noted before someone else takes their turn to share an idea.

For communication to take place at its best, a team leader must foster a culture where each person is invited to speak and experience the respect of everyone else through intentional listening. Only then will mutual respect be experienced by all, and the optimal environment be in place to gain the most from the time together.

In team meetings or small groups, we must take turns – both speaking AND listening.

Today With Your spouse:

Tonight when you greet each other, take turns sharing about the day. Don’t be so eager to tell about your day that you cut the other person off in the middle of them telling about theirs. Listen intently instead. By doing so you are showing respect to your spouse.

Tonight With Your Kids:

Practice with your children as well. Give your full attention to them when you see them after school. Then ask them for a few moments of their time and attention as you share with them some about your day too. Being deliberate to do this will teach your children how taking turns when communicating is a way of showing respect to others. It will help them with friends and go along way in preparing them one day with a future mate and family.

Whenever In Conflict:

Perhaps nowhere is the need to take turns more apparent than when in conflict. It is a must. Each person is angry or hurt for some reason. Critical to solving that conflict is the act of giving each other an opportunity to share their side, while we listen to truly understand and appreciate their perspective.

Today and this weekend – practice and model taking turns when in dialogue with your team, your spouse, and your children.

Simple.

But powerful.

It will deepen mutual respect!

Now do this with me quickly – leave a short phrase or sentence below telling me one place today where you are going to put this into practice. Let’s encourage each other right now by writing it down in the comment section below:

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Give This Gift To Everyone Around You

Time and again we have heard people say: can we use PLEDGE in any relationship? And we want to shout YES YOU CAN! We have heard of people using it with their children, with their friends, with their parents, in their workplace, and even in politics!

Recently I was struck again with the thought that everyone has a story inside them. I was saddened and convicted that too often I don’t stop to hear their story. Sometimes, I even forget there is one. Nevertheless, there are deep things going on inside each of us. There is a story about our life growing up. There is story that has been lived out in our relationships as adults.

There is story each day we could tell – if there was someone to listen.

And that’s the catch…

if there is someone to listen.

Hear me in… the pain I feel. The anger I exhibit. The depression I experience. The addiction I cannot overcome. Hear me in those moments when I attempt to open up, as feeble as it may be. Hear me in the confusion that washes over my face when you talk to me. Hear me when I am silent, not knowing what to say. Hear me when I talk non-stop, keeping you at bay.

There is story waiting to be heard at every moment, with every person.

Taking time to listen is a gift we can give day after day, every day.

It is a gift to our spouse, a gift to our children, a gift to a friend, a gift to someone we work with, a gift to our neighbor, and a gift to the stranger on the street or the check-out person in the store.

This week I had the honor and privilege of being the guest author/speaker in my wife’s class with her second graders. It was great fun! I got my little kid fix! My wife is teaching PLEDGE to these children. As I was talking to them about pausing when they are mad, I asked if they had ever heard of the Golden Rule. Most had not. I taught them about treating others just like we would want them to treat us. They didn’t like it when someone said mean things to them. They didn’t want to say mean things to others either. Instead, they just want someone to listen when they are mad or hurt.

Everything we needed to learn for life we learned in – ok, second grade.

We all just want someone to listen.

When we are mad, or hurt, or afraid, or sad, or confused, or discouraged, or excited and happy and encouraged – we want to share our story with someone – if they will just listen.

So today, look around you. Watch for those moments when someone, some where, in some way is saying: “Will you hear me in _______?”

Ask them questions like:

How are you?

What is happening?

How are you feeling about ____?

If they give you a quick, brushed off answer, say: “No I mean it. How are you really?”

And give them the gift of listening to their story!

Share with us how you listened this week!