Imagine that you really want to tell someone something that is important to you. Picture telling the whole story to a friend (we’ll call her Gwen) who lets you tell your tale unhurried from beginning to end. Gwen faces you, leaning in and making eye contact, her facial expressions and gestures perfectly responsive to your narrative. When you’re done, Gwen interestedly asks relevant questions to learn more about your experience and feelings.
Now imagine a different person (we’ll call her Lydia) who interrupts you with off-topic remarks about herself, who tries to rush or cut off your story by shifting the focus to herself. Lydia leans away from you, and her gaze drifts aimlessly. When you get through whatever of your story you were able to tell, Lydia either ignores or undermines what you’ve said. Would you rather share your news with Gwen or Lydia? Which listener would you rather be?
If your answer for both questions is Gwen, then you want to be and be understood by a genuine and skilled listener. How can you become a Gwen-grade listener? That is what we are going to explore in our Become a Listening Master blog series.
Like any ability, listening can be improved through intentional practice.
Step 1: The first step in becoming a masterful listener is intend to listen. Hearing is perceiving sound. Listening is accurately receiving and interpreting meaning from communications. So, before your next conversation with someone, tell yourself right before the conversation starts “My intention is to fully listen to so-and-so, so that I can really grasp their meaning.” By intending to listen, you shine the flashlight of your attention completely on understanding the other person.
You are now ready to take the first step on the listening mastery journey. To continue towards Master Listener, stay tuned for Step 2.