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A Framework for Listening

Conscious Communication: bringing communication up from "auto-pilot" and reactive, to thoughtful, responsive, and above all, intentional.

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Quick Communication Tip

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A Framework for Listening
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Virtually everything I’ve read about “improving communication,” deals with how to say what you want to say. They talk about your tone, projection, and occasionally address the content.

There’s almost an afterthought that you should also be a good listener. And how do you do that? What does it really mean? Certainly there’s more to it than merely waiting for the other person to pause before you talk. What should you listen for, and what should you do when you hear it? Are there cues in what the other person is saying that can help you “get” them?

Absolutely. One common theme from my workshops, seminars and coaching is that there are verbal cues hiding throughout our speech, telling much more than just the words alone. If we’re paying attention, when we hear these cues, we can use this information to help us understand where the other person is coming from. This gives us real context for their words, and as we know context gives words meaning.

Without this process of active listening, we tend to plug in our own context for their words, which can make them sound nutty, selfish, unthinking, or even dumb. And, of course this is a two-way street. If others are listening to you with their own context being plugged in, they’re most likely forming inaccurate impressions of you as well.

The Empty Cup
The old story about a student brimming with all he’d learned, and visiting his Zen master for tea, illustrates the first rule of active listening. The master was filling the student’s teacup until it was overflowing, and the student cried out for him to stop as no more would fit. The master pointed out that the student was also too full for anything more to fit, and suggested returning with an empty cup.

One of the easiest and most powerful things you can do when listening to someone, is to start with an empty cup. Merely by ridding yourself of assumptions and projections about what they’re going to say or why, you open the space for their words to have their own meaning.

Without that space, there are so many areas we can steer ourselves wrong from semantics to subtext. We all have our own definitions to words like integrity, friendship, loyalty, love, commitment, and so on. For me to assume you mean the same thing I do when talking about this sort of thing would be fast, easy, and probably dead wrong. I better check in with you early and often to make sure I understand what you mean with your words.

When it comes to subtext, we really need to give people room. This is where recognizing your own operating system or lens type (how you take in and process the world around you) really helps. This can help you clarify and differentiate what’s going on inside you, from what may be going on inside the person talking to you. Understanding their operating system and yours takes your communication to new heights.

Cues and Patterns
Although we’ve addressed some of these cues and patterns from the context of increasing sales, enhancing our communication in all our interactions can only make our lives better. Let’s look at some of the verbal cues that help you understand how people process.

The faster someone talks, the less likely they’re interested in details, and the more likely they’re somewhat visual in their way of processing. Do they say “I see what you mean?” or “I hear you?” The slower someone talks, the more likely they’re interested in details, issues of safety or security, and potentially process on a more kinesthetic level. They might say “I get it.”

The patterns that these cues illuminate give you information about how to adjust your language, tone, and pace to reach them. One cue would be if the person tends to say “I feel” versus “I know.” This would tell you that they’re more likely motivated by aspiring toward an ideal than avoiding pain. If they use “I think,” it would indicate that they’re more likely motivated by avoiding pain than aspiring toward an ideal. Of course this isn’t absolute, but more of a leaning or tendency.

Listening is an active skill. When you’re doing it well, you can’t possibly be planning what you’ll say when the other person pauses. You really have to pay attention to them fully. Remember to check in and make sure you really understand, before going too far down the road of misunderstanding. This brings up an old concept in carpentry, that applies in communication as well: measure twice, cut once. It may appear to take more time at first, but not having to fix things afterward saves much more than time. And what’s the point of the conversation; to finish it fast, or convey something?



Quick Communication Tip


Slow Down to Speed Up

A vast majority of misunderstandings and miscommunications can be avoided simply by slowing down a little bit. When we rush through our communication, we make several mistakes. We don’t check in along the way frequently enough to ensure that we truly understand. Then our misunderstanding takes us further and further from their meaning, so the problem builds on itself.

At the very least, when we rush through, we're like a skipping stone that never really engages. Is the point of this communication to have it be over as quickly as possible or to share something? Which desired outcome are we focusing on? Wouldn’t it take less time to understand something fully, than to have to go back and argue over who said what when? Once again, what is our desired outcome there? Is it to be right or to understand one another?

Want to learn more about how your communication can hold you back or catapult you forward?  Come visit the web site, or better yet, contact me and see how we can design a program to fit your needs and desired outcomes.


Resource Links:

Conscious Communication - the podcast series

KG Stiles: "Conversations that Enlighten and Heal"
Ian Blei on Kind Ambition and the
Integram (TM)

Personal Life Media - "Coaching the Life Coach:"
Communication Excellence (Podcast Snippets)
Communication Excellence (full interview)

Interview Podcast for Evolutionary Radio w/ J. McClain

Kind Ambition -
2nd Edition now available

Got Blog? c
ome visit the Blog.

Character Driven - Ever want to create characters that were so believable, that people forgot they were characters?



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