Five lessons I have learned about listening attentively to others

Five lessons I have learned about listening attentively to others

As a coach, one of the primary skills we learn is the art and skill of listening.  My listening ability transformed after I had attended Nancy Kline’s Thinking Partner Training. Here is what I have learned further about listening attentively:

1. Others feel valued when they are being listened to attentively. They feel that in that moment, what they have to say is worthwhile. Even if they discount it themselves afterwards ‘I was rambling and yet you continued to listen’. In this so-called rambling often I witness greater clarity of thinking and new insights from the speaker.

2. To listen attentively requires my utmost attention. Attention to what the speaker is saying, what they are not saying, what their body is communicating, the tone and pace of their voice. I am also listening to the potential of the speaker ‘where might they go next?’ I hear in my mind.

3. My own thinking can get in the way ‘ah yes, I have experienced that, I wonder if you have tried this . . . ?’ As soon as I notice my own thinking for solution, I am no longer listening attentively to the speaker. I therefore quieten my thoughts and refocus on the speaker and encourage them to say more.

4. Providing space for the speaker to speak is essential when listening attentively. It is a known fact that we feel uncomfortable in moments of silence for much more than about 6 seconds. Some will even just cough to break the silence if they have nothing to say!

After asking a question, it is essential to be silent for as long as the speaker needs to finish. Notice your own desire to interrupt when the speaker takes a breath. Hold back. Don’t interrupt, allow the speaker to continue until they have finished what they have to say. The more space you give them, the more they will fill it.

5. Be free of judgement. When I am listening attentively, I am free of judgement for the speaker. I am curious in what they are saying and what they are going to say. This is not to say that I don’t have a view. It is in this moment when I am listening attentively, it is the speaker’s view I am interested in, not mine.

So why is it so important to listen in this way? Listening attentively is a gift both to the listener and to the speaker. Its purpose is for new thinking to emerge and more often than not, the new thinking emerges in partnership for both the listener and the speaker. With new thinking, speakers gain more clarity, more confidence, new insights and a new way forward for themselves.

If you knew that the person you were listening to was about to share some ground-breaking thoughts, how would you pay attention to them?

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Please comment below:

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