Friday, August 26, 2011

Listen Like Allies

I once heard someone say “listen as allies, not as adversaries.”

What a powerful statement. Listening is one of, if not THE most important skills in communicating for success. When I was a mediator I watched the challenges with listening every day. The more intense the conflict, and the longer the animosity had gone on, the more difficult it was to listen. Instead of listening, they were planning their argument in their head, or digging through their mental filing cabinet for the history and verbal ammunition to support their own viewpoint.

For others, the emotions ran high and blocked the ability to listen effectively without judgment or blame.

I have read some studies that indicate we only remember 24-50% of what we hear, so communicating your message clearly, effectively and timely is important if you want people to remember what you are communicating.

There really is a gift in listening. Listening builds shared understanding and often you hear the nuggets (or potential solutions) if you are open to them.

Here are a few tips to boost your ability to listen as allies, not as adversaries:

1. Have a mindset of curiosity. When you are curious, it makes it difficult to be judgmental.

2. Pay attention to your thoughts. Where is your mind when someone is speaking to you? Is it on your to do list? Digging through the mental file cabinet? Planning your retort? Or, with the other person in the conversation?

3. Be present. This is easier said than done. Being present is more than just showing up. It is about being engaged in the conversation.

4. Be open to the concept that all opinions and perspectives are welcome, and are important.

5. Defer judgment-allow the speaker to finish.

6. Manage your emotions. If you find yourself becoming emotional or reactive, say something like “I may have understood you correctly, and I find myself reacting and taking what you said personally. What I thought you just said is _____, is that what you meant?”

7. Remember to breathe. Under stress your breathing changes, and this can increase anxiousness. Breathe, and minimize distractions that will get in the way of communication.

When you listen like you are allies, or on the same side, there is less tendency to become adversaries.

To learn more about listening and communication, check out Charmaine’s new book Bounce Forward. You can order your signed copy for $20, including GST and shipping by emailing or calling 780-798-2426.

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