Listen with an Intent to Understand…

By , February 12, 2011 4:24 pm

“If you make listening and observation your occupation you will gain much more than you can by talk.”

Robert Baden-Powell, writer and founder of the Scout Movement.

Listening is one of those skills that we’re not really taught how to do. Most of us could be better listeners.

I was coaching a client this week who wanted to learn how to be more empathic at home and at work. He wasn’t sure where to begin…

I often ask clients the following question:

“When you interact with someone, do you listen with an intent to understand or with an intent to respond?”

Their answer is often:

‘Oh! What a good question!’

My client responded in this exact same way. The question got him thinking…

Whether you are a manager, employee, parent or friend you can find that you’re dealing with a constant challenge to step away from your natural instincts that you:

  • Know the answer
  • Want to solve the problem
  • Take control of the situation

We often feel that we should know the answer to the other person’s problem. That’s why they’re talking to us about the situation, right? So we hear the basics and feel that we should jump in with a response. After all, as a human, our ego ultimately likes to be in control!

There’s a huge difference between listening and hearing and our body language ALWAYS gives us away! You already know if someone isn’t listening to you and how that makes you feel.

Some people are also more interested in themselves than they are in the person that they are supposed to be listening too! Have you ever met anyone like this (You might even be THAT person!)? You can easily spot them because they NEVER shut up (except to occasionally breathe!). They want you to know that they are successful by showing off their knowledge, experience and opinions. They don’t realise that their behaviour is having a negative effect on the other person. No one wants to be around them for very long!

Listening is one of the greatest gifts that you can give someone.

Being genuinely interested in the other person, giving them same value, worth and dignity as you give yourself, really makes a difference. If they feel that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say, how they think and what they feel they will relax, open up more and share their true feelings and opinions with you. The conversation will flow better and you’ll engage at a deeper level. They will respond positively to your interest in them.

Good listeners do the following:

  • Show that they are interested in you
  • Make you feel like you are the most important person in the room
  • Care about your success
  • Help you to relax
  • Are patient
  • They don’t interrupt you
  • They concentrate on what you are sharing with them
  • Ask great questions
  • Make understanding you their priority
  • Are not frightened of silence
  • Don’t allow distractions to interrupt the conversation (Such as phones, other people etc)

Do you take time to truly understand the people that you talk to?

4 Responses to “Listen with an Intent to Understand…”

  1. elaine says:

    Why not take this a step further and consider how often you actually stop and listen to yourself? Do you listen to what you truly want or need? That deeper voice within is very wise.

    Have a great weekend!
    Elaine

  2. Elaine, wow, thanks for that question! It got me thinking on many different levels. “Listen” is my word of the year :-) And like you said it is not only listening to the other but also listening to ourselves. Olga

  3. elaine says:

    Hi Olga – thanks for stopping by. Listen is an AWESOME Word of The Year! :-)

  4. [...] meant listen to my mentor. In February 2011 I read a blog post by Elaine Bailey on “Listen with an Intent to Understand” and in one month time I hired her as a life and business [...]

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