Do You Know When You Stop Listening? | Blog
Do You Know When You Stop Listening?
“Do you stop listening to me if you don't like the tone of my voice?” A few weeks ago, I saw this post on Instagram and instantly in my mind I replied, “Yep. That's me. I've done that.”
In that moment I wondered what I might have missed out on because I had a preference for certain kinds of tones over others. Perhaps, like many of you, I don't really like when people yell or try to make their points with lots of anger or intensity. Now that might sound logical to you, but I've come to see the limitation in it.
What if we were able to listen, and listen to understand, regardless of tone, regardless of whether we agree or disagree with somebody. What if we could listen to understand regardless of how it's being communicated? What would we learn, see and accomplish? How would our relationships evolve?
Being able to communicate, to listen and to understand one another matters – a lot. It matters in every relationship. Whether it's with a client, a team member, a partner, a family member or a stranger.
This is not a blog about how to be a better listener, or even why you should, we inherently get this. We know the difference when someone really listens and is present to us or when they are waiting to get their turn or tuning us out completely. However, I'm not sure we're always aware when we stop listening or to be blunt, what lousy listeners we can be.
I once had a mentor say to me, “Barb, if you could see how busy your mind is, and learn to show up with less on your mind, it would take your impact to a whole new level. In fact, it would change every relationship you have.”
Seeing how active and busy my mind was and can still be, has been transformative. I always thought I was a good listener. I would have given myself an A in listening and in relationships but the feedback from my mentor, made something visible that had previously been invisible to me. My listening was being affected by my busy mind. I would stop listening as soon as I thought “I got it”. Or I would stop listening because I was following my own inner assessments, opinions, conclusions, rather than staying present to the person.
When I started to get curious about listening more deeply, listening beyond my first assessments, listening to hear more and to understand more, I was surprised and humbled to see how powerful it is to sit with someone and really take them in, to stay the course and to understand. My mentor was right. The more I've learned to respect a freer, open and more present mind, the more love, connection and impact I've experienced. The more I've listened to understand, the richer and more meaningful the exchange. It really has changed all my relationships.
My own quality of listening is a fluid thing. I can often still be busy minded and revved up, but I now know there is another way to be in the moment. This has given me a new place to orient myself and has been a huge gift.
Last year, I was working with a team and we were having a discussion about this very thing. As part of the conversation, we went around the room and everyone shared when they would stop listening. Some of the examples included, “When I'm bored.” “When I have something to say.” “When I don't agree.” “When I think I know what they are going to say.” “When I don't believe them.” “When I don't really care about the topic or what they're saying.” “When I get uncomfortable.” “When I can't relate to what they're saying.” “When I feel blamed.” “When I've heard it before.” “When I don't think it applies to me.” And yes, someone even said the one I mentioned above, “When I don't like their tone of voice.”
Do any of these resonate for you?
Is it any wonder why communications can go south or how misunderstandings happen? There is a price we pay when we stop listening or when we do not listen to understand. It erodes connection, collaboration, relationships and limits our ability to get to the heart of a matter.
We are in conversations all day long. When we go beyond our thoughts, our opinions and our preferences for how we like to hear things, we see and experience so much more. We can't help but understand, get woken up in new ways and perhaps have a change of heart. Our interactions and our relationships are enriched.
Just because we do not agree, does not mean we should or cannot keep listening to understand. Just because we cannot relate, or it doesn't match our experience does not mean it is not the truth for someone else or that we cannot listen to understand. Just because they are hurt and angry does not mean we can't listen to understand. Just because they say it messy or get emotional does not mean they are not worth listening to.
Staying present, even when it's uncomfortable or hard, listening to understand, changes us and changes them. It creates strong bonds, powerful partnerships, new depth and is the foundation of change.
When we stay the course, go beyond reactivity, go beyond our own likes and dislikes, and our opinions, we find a common ground. When we listen to understand someone else's world we get to the heart of the matter. All parties are affected. Love and understanding become the new foothold in a conversation and in a relationship.
Listening to understand comes from a deeper place within ourselves. It is not an intellectual process. It's a taking in and letting understanding emerge. We listen with our eyes, our hearts and our deeper nature. Listening from this space within, while being present to another person's point of view, their experience or their pain, allows wisdom, love and understanding to pave the way forward.
When we realize that there are infinite levels of listening and understanding, we slow down to the moment, to the conversation in front of us and see what comes forth. We do not force the conclusion or rush the answer, we are impacted in the being with and listening to.
I've seen the benefit of this when teams are looking for a new solution to a complex problem, when partners are in conflict, when parents want to connect more deeply with their child or when coaches and consultants, like me, want to have more impact in their work.
When do you stop listening? What might you see and discover if you got comfortable listening to people that do not fit your preferred communication style? What might happen if you stayed the course in a conversation and listened to understand?
“Listening to understand comes from a deeper place within ourselves. It is not an intellectual process. It's a taking in and letting understanding emerge.”
“The experience of being understood, versus interpreted, is so compelling you
can charge admission.” -Susan Scott
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Barbara Patterson is the owner of a global coaching and consulting company helping solopreneurs, entrepreneurs & leaders access more clarity, creativity, have greater impact and higher levels of fulfillment in work and life. She is the founder of Beyond Limits in Business, a global platform and community designed to point people to the source of human potential. That potential resides within and is experienced via our minds. Barb is also the host of the Real Business Real Lives podcast. You can follow Barb on Linkedin and Insta