Don’t you wish we had some basic rules to follow when dealing with people? Like the math and spelling rules we learned in elementary school. Once we learned the basics, we could solve more difficult math problems and spell longer words. I think there is such a rule when it comes to dealing with people; that rule is to listen. Most of the time, we don’t listen to others. We may hear what they are saying, but we do not we really listen We have all kinds reasons – we are too busy, our brains can process information much faster than people talk, our environment is noisy making it hard to hear, we disagree with their position, etc. But what happens when we really listen? Relationships transform and improve. One of the best examples of this I’ve seen in print is found in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. In Habit 5, Seek to Understand, Covey describes two conversations between a father and a son. The difference between the two is astounding. Covey points out that we have a general tendency to jump in and solve someone’s problem by giving advice, but we do not take the time to discover what the speaker is really trying to say. Our typical behavior is to listen at one of four levels:
- Ignoring: not listening at all.
- Pretending: “Yes. Hmm. Right.”
- Selective listening: hearing only selective parts of the conversation.
- Attentive listening: paying attention and focusing energy on the words that are being said.
What if we practiced a 5th level – empathic listening? That is to say, listening for the feeling behind the words. We would then be listening to understand the speaker’s point of view. According to Covey, it takes a great deal of security to go into a deep listening experience because we open ourselves up to be influenced. We become vulnerable. “Because you really listen, you become influenceable. And being influenceable is the key to influencing others.” – Stephen Covey
Take some time this week to listen at this deep level. Post your experience here.