I’ve been struck over the past week by how many people have expressed frustration at not being heard – by their boss, team members, business contacts, family or significant other. I’ve also been conscious of the number of times I haven’t given loved ones the attention they deserve, because I’ve been wrapped up in my own thoughts or busy doing three things at once…
Being heard, understood and respected for our point of view is a fundamental human right. But so often, we get distracted, and – intentionally or not – don’t take the time to really listen to what’s being said. This can lead to frustration, resentment and, eventually, disengagement: not good, whether it’s with colleagues or loved ones.
So what can we do to have more productive conversations?
The first step is to change our own approach to communication. Demonstrate our commitment to really listening and invite the people around us to do the same.
Here are some other ideas for productive conversations, based on the coach approach to communication, which recognises three levels of listening. They’ve made a big difference to the way I relate to the people around me. Why not try them out for a couple of days, and see what difference they make to you?
Switch on: if the conversation is worth having, make your mind up to give it your full attention: get your mind, body and spirit ‘in the room’
Focus your attention: eliminate as many distractions as you can: put your Blackberry down, switch off the TV, move away from other people’s conversations
Connect: take your time to observe not only what the person is saying, but how they are saying it. Does their body language support their words, or are their eyes, facial expression or posture telling a different story?
Build rapport: notice their own unique way of communicating; what metaphors are they using? Do they come across as a predominantly visual, auditory or kinaesthetic? Try to see the world through their eyes and you will naturally start to communicate in the same way as they do
Open up: be curious about what’s going on in their world. Keep an open mind and avoid jumping to conclusions or finishing their sentences off for them
And finally… respond! There’s a whole range of ways in which we can get our point across in a meaningful way, some of which I will talk about in future blogs. What’s key for me is that, once you understand where the other person is at, the more likely you are to say something that they’re interested in and the more likely you are to share a meaningful conversation.
To be listened to is a striking experience, partly because it is so rare. When another person is totally with you – leaning in, interested in every word, eager to empathise – you feel known and understood. People open up when they know they’re really being listened to; they expand; they have more presence. They feel safer and more secure as well, and trust grows
Laura Whitworth, et al Co-Active Coaching
To share your thoughts and recommendations, please comment on the blog, or email me firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!