Are You Listening? Level Up Your Active Listening Skills!!

Ever feel like you weren't being heard? 

'Do you mean within the last hour?'   The feeling of not being heard is common.  Unfortunately … too common.  We can't do much to improve another person's listening skills, so let's focus on our own.

Active Listening is a skill.  Learnable.  Improvable. 

Wikipedia says Active Listening 'requires the listener to fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said.'

On a ten-point scale, how would you rate your Active Listening skill?  10?  5?  C'mon be honest.  We all can improve our Active Listening skills.  We just need to learn more about it and then practice.  And practice.  And practice more.    Until Active Listening becomes Habit.

Let's get to it!

There are three fundamental steps to Active Listening:  Hear.  Store.  Respond. 

Hear.  You'd think something as simple as hearing is easy.  It's not!  We typically begin every conversation with invisible screens that filter what we hear.  How do I feel about this person?  What do I want to say to this person?  The first step of Active Listening is breaking down Hearing Barriers.  When I'm hearing well, I reduce my expectations and engage with true curiosity.

Store.  Getting excellent at storing what's being said sounds easy, but it's tough!  I have an INCREDIBLY hard time remembering someone's name 21 seconds after being introduced.  Yikes!!  How can we improve our storing skills?  My brain is a database of information.  One way I've improved my short-term memory is by making quick associations.  If I'm introduced to Bob, I think of my father-in-law, Bob.  Now this person's name is placed next to a permanent memory! 

Respond.  Effective communication requires a feedback loop.  How well can you repeat someone's exact words?  Good at that?  Okay, how about with the exact same tone and feeling?  Our response isn't just about repeating back words.  That's just scratching the surface.  People want to be heard on an emotional level, too.  Demonstrating that level of active listening requires listening for more than words.  Watch for nonverbal subtleties.  A crinkled nose.  An exasperated tone.  These cues let you know and respond to what's NOT being said!   Masterful!

Hear. Store.  Respond.  They build on each other so if you're not good at hearing what's being said (and not being said), your storing and responding skills suffer. 

Leveling Up Your Active Listening

I really understood a new depth of Active Listening when I was on a Men's Wilderness Journey in the boundary waters of Northern Minnesota.  We were sitting in circle around the campfire after an amazing day of solo experiences, each of us recounting our day.  As each man gave his story, I realized I was getting nervous about recounting my story.  Would it be profound enough?  How would I craft a particular part of my story?  Then I realized I was only half listening to the other men.  Not fully present.  Not taking in their wisdom. 

Have you had a similar experience when you were thinking about what you're going to say and find you're miss out on the full experience of what's being said?

That's when it dawned on me.  How could I listen to each person, leveling up my Hear Store and Respond skills?  What if I listened to each person's story as if I was saying what they were saying?  If I was feeling what they were feeling?  If I was experiencing what they were recounting?  Actually there!  Beside them all day.  This level of Active Listening required me to be 100% present. 

Everything shifted!

I got more excited.  My engagement soared.  As each man told his story, I was THERE!  I multiplied my experiences of the day…each story building upon another.  When the circle got to me, my story changed radically because now it was woven into the flow of everyone's experience.  They were all there right with me DURING my experience of the day.

Okay I'll be honest, I don't have that level of Active Listening in every interaction.  Far from it.  HOWEVER, because of storytelling around a campfire, I have first-hand experience of a level of clarity and Now-ness.  I have … Aspiration.

Give Active Listening a try and open up to the world of what's NOT being said!

Learn Deeply!


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