In another of our interview series with Craig, we’re chatting today about listening and why it’s fundamentally important for any type of relationship.
Q: What do you mean by listening to hear versus listening to talk?
Stop for a moment and think about how you listen. Are you listening because you genuinely want to hear what the other person has said, or are you listening to wait for your opportunity to talk?
Some people listen because they’re genuinely interested but some people listen to look for the opportunity to talk and say what they want to say. In this case your focus is about you and not the other person and how they’re feeling and what they’re saying. You’re listening to your own thoughts not theirs. Ask yourself how you feel when you are truly being listened to. What positive emotions and feelings does it create in you? When we are truly listened to, it’s one of the greatest gifts a human can give to another person.
If you listen to hear someone you give yourself to the whole person. You’re hearing the words, the embedded emotion and what’s not being said. You’re tuned in to the other person’s body language. You may think you are listening to someone but if you also have one ear listening to EastEnders on the TV, for example, are you really listening? When you listen to someone, you’re there for them and do everything in your power to make them feel they are the only person in the world who matters to you.
In its most primitive form, for instance, when I’m coaching, it’s all about listening until my ears hurt, and only speaking briefly. My whole focus of attention is on what the other person is saying and inferring. That means I need time to reflect and gather my thoughts before responding.
Q: Fundamentally we all listen anyway, don’t we?
If you’re talking to me and my focus of attention is waiting to say what I want, then I’m not truly listening to you, I’m forming my next question or point of view. A common example is a Newsnight presenter asking a politician a question who then replies, ‘’Thank you. That’s an interesting question but a more relevant point is…” They’ve just used the TV interview as an opportunity to share their views as opposed to listening to the specific question the presenter has asked.
Q: How can an organisation benefit from listening?
Listening creates greater understanding between people which can lead to more productive relationships and better team performance. It builds and strengthens one-to-one and team relationships. It produces a feeling of being genuinely interested in each other. It allows space for differences of opinion and disagreements but done with care and love. It creates a much deeper level of emotional intelligence. Listening is non-hierarchical, generating a feeling of respect and trust. A lot of companies talk about effective communication; listening is the cornerstone. Great listening isn’t just a skill set it’s a commitment, an art form and a behaviour choice.
Q: What listening skills/techniques do you employ when working at Rambutan?
I take time to think about what’s being said. I give my whole self to that person. Even though my phone may be on the table it stays untouched. I will stop what I’m doing to give myself to that person. I’ll also be very honest and say if I can’t stop and take the time. If you truly ‘buy into’ listening, it can become mentally taxing because it’s an active behaviour using focus and understanding. The question you should ask yourself is, “Why listen?” And then consider how great you can make a person feel if you really listen to them.
Be daring; if you haven’t got the time to listen and care then don’t and be honest upfront… don’t just go through the motions.
Q: What successes can you share with us?
When I’m coaching individuals I find 90% of my coaching time is spent listening. I’ve facilitated coaching sessions where I’ve simply asked, “What’s on your mind today?” and the coachee has then chatted for an hour non-stop.
Have a think about the last time you asked someone, “How are you today?” did you really want to listen to their answer or did you ask because it’s the right thing to do? Truly great listening is when you care about the person and what they’re going to say.
Q: What are your top three tips on how to listen successfully?
- genuinely choose to want to listen
- give your whole self to the other person
- do everything in your power to help that person feel like the most important person in the world
Thanks Craig, it was great listening to your informative and inspiring chat. Do you have any listening tips and techniques to share with us?