A MINI TUTORIAL ON LISTENING

PRE-MINI LISTENING TUTORIAL DIAGNOSTIC QUESTIONS

You already know a lot about listening, what makes for good listening and doesn't. Answer the following questions about your experience on paper or to another.

  1. What makes you want to learn to listen better? What do you think it will do for you?
  2. Who is someone you can't stand talking to? Why? What do they do that lets you know they aren't listening? 
  3. What behaviors do you have that aren't really listening?
  4. Who is someone you seek out, if only in your imagination, to listen to you when you have an issue to discuss? What specific behaviors do they do (body, words, energy?)
  5. What happens for you when someone really listens to you?
  6. How much are you like this person when you listen?
  7. What do you, personally, need to do less of when listening?
  8. What do you, personally, need to learn how to do when listening?
  9. Are you prepared to become self-conscious for a while of your ineffective listening while you work at becoming a better listener?
  10. Is there anyone you would like to share this learning with, perhaps a learning partner?
At the heart of good communication, is not the process of talking, but that of listening. The first step to improve your listening skills is to stop talking. It is very difficult to talk and listen at the same time.
— ― Tony Buon, The Leadership Coach: A Teach Yourself Personal Guide to Success

STEPS TO BECOMING A BETTER LISTENER

Become an "inner listener": 

  • Practice becoming aware of the sounds in your world, attuning your ears and your hearts to the complexity and beauty all around you.
  • Be in silence more, without any electronic distractions.
  • Become aware of sensations in your body caused by an emotional reaction to something. Observe the feeling without analyzing or trying to make it go away (it will just from being observed!)
  • Try having days where you don't talk much, but are silent or just nod in response, saying only what you have to say.
  • Observe your own listening. Become aware of your habits that block someone's feeling heard, before, or instead of speaking.
  • Allow more silence in a conversation and see what happens.

When listening to another:

  • Practice improving your listening in this order, layering the skills one upon the other over time.
  • Listen silently, nodding, but resisting the urge to interrupt or fill the silence. During this time you can observe what you feel compelled to do (compete, minimize, daydream, rehearse, etc.)
  • Just reflect back after listening silently. Let the other person know what you heard them say.
  • After reflecting back, ask questions to clarify information for yourself, then to help them understand or appreciate themselves more deeply.

HABITS TO LIMIT

The most common habits which block listening are on the "Habits to Limit" cards.  Pick out and carry with you the cards which describe your own habits.

LISTENING SKILLS

Study the "Listening Skill" cards in the deck you have purchased.  Choose the skills you still need to learn the most, or which call to you first. "Allowing Silence" is a good place to start.  Learn only one Skill, and limit one Habit at a time, over the course of a week. Keep these cards with you all the time, or tape them up where you are reminded.

THOUGHTS ON LEARNING TO LISTEN

Remember when you listen that each person has the wisdom inside to guide their own lives, but when they are flooded with emotion they need the help of a listener to diffuse the emotion and organize their thoughts.

  • We each have our own unique lessons to learn and we must learn them for ourselves. If someone does it for us, we still have to learn the lesson.
  • Acknowledge that becoming a real listener will take a while, like learning a new language. Few of us have ever been taught how to really listen.
  • Note the difference in the responses you get when you really listen to someone from when you are not.
  • Seek out good listeners yourself and closely observe what they do and how you respond.
  • Commit fully to learning to become a good listener. Commitment is 50% of mastery.
  • Learn to listen with a friend, partner, or child, making a fun game of it.
  • Forgive yourself and others when you or they fail to listen. We don't have to be "on" all the time. We are still going to be ourselves. Really listening is just another tool in your bag for relating better to other people.

STEPS FOR LISTENING DEEPLY

Decide to listen

  • If you can't, say no or when
  • Take care of anger first
  • Limit distractions

Breathe into the belly

  • Become aware of your body 
  • Minimize defensive posture
  • Open your body as comfortable
  • Turn toward them or 3/4
  • If heated, put topic off to the side

Focus

  • Become present 
  • Let interfering thoughts drop away

Allow for silence

  • Silence is the well of answers
  • Don't fill pondering time
  • Allow 7 seconds after a question
  • Breathe through discomfort

Reflecting back

  • The basics of their story: details, ideas
  • Their feelings
  • What's important to them
  • To help them organize thoughts
  • To help them feel heard

Ask questions to help you each understand  

  • To clarify the details
  • To help them hear what they are saying

Limit your blocking habits

  • Laugh at yourself
  • Admit to the other person
Let us try to hear a person out before we try to find fault with what they said.
— Dexsta Ray

TACTICS FOR LEARNING TO LISTEN

Three tactics that help you overcome old habits and begin practicing new ones are:

  1. Breath when you become tense, distracted or compelled to engage in an old habit;
  2. Be mindful of your thinking and check for any thoughts of judgment, advice, or comparison
  3. Bracket, or temporarily set aside your own issues and opinions to experience the speaker's world as it is for him, not for you.

In short, when you begin to listen, think "set myself aside, mind my thoughts, and breathe (when I am tempted to take over)."