Most people want to show up as authentic and genuine. Part of this perception comes from what we say, and part from what we do. In communication, we often overlook the vital role of listening.
Think of a time when you were “listening” to someone talk, but you were really just waiting for your turn to speak. We’ve probably all done this at some point. People often aren’t truly listening, they are just pausing before they continue with their own agenda.
If you summon the physical feeling of waiting to pounce on an opening to get your point across, you’ll notice that you were probably holding your breath in this instance.
Authentic, open communicators rarely hold their breath. And they don’t just bite their tongue and hear, they genuinely listen.
The key is where the focus lies. Is it on your agenda or theirs?
How to listen well
According to the International Listening Association (ILA), which is a 100% real organization I am not making up, here are some considerations for listening well:
- Are you giving the speaker 100% of your attention?
- Are you listening to understand, rather than listening to respond?
- Have you opened your mind to receive what is being said?
- Have you rejected the temptation to prepare your response while the other person is speaking?
- Are you open to changing your mind?
- Are you aware of what is not being said as well as what is being said?
- Are you taking account of the degree of emotion attached to the words?
- Are you aware of differences or similarities (culture, age, gender) between you and the speaker which may influence how you listen?
- Are you giving signals to the speaker that you are listening?
- Are you valuing the speaker and the experience they have gathered in their life so far?
How to know if you are listening well
The ILA also provides these examples of poor listening skills:
- Interrupting the speaker
- Avoiding eye contact
- Hijacking the speaker’s message with “That reminds me…” or “That’s nothing, let me tell you about…”
- Making assumptions
- Reacting emotionally
- Faking attention
- Succumbing to internal and external distractions
Listening to your own inner voice
Finally, listening to the “still, small voice” in your own head/heart/body is essential for authenticity. It leads to being present, centered, and clear.
So the next time you catch yourself holding your breath while waiting to get your turn to speak, consider options for deeper listening.
For personalized guidance around communication, reach out to schedule a session!