I try to offer others the gift of deep listening. This essentially means to be in the present moment with the person you are having a conversation with. It means giving your full, undivided attention without interruption, so they know whatever is being said, you see them as someone important enough to be fully engaged to hear whatever it is they have to say.
In that little space of time between shifting gears, I am now aware that I am making a conscious decision to stop whatever it is I am doing, so I can give my attention to another. I am looking into the eyes of the other person and my body language gives all those important clues that I am an engaged listener. I’ll be writing a separate post on body language, but for now it’s enough to know that it is a way of communicating without words, either through conscious or unconscious gestures and movements.
I won’t deny there are still times I may not be giving someone my full attention. We live in a world where sights and sounds are constantly competing for us to take notice. The really big difference for me now however, is in that shifting gears moment – being aware that I have the choice to focus solely on the other person.
Now, this does not mean that every time someone approaches you, you have to immediately stop what you’re doing to enter into a lengthy conversation. If you truly are under a tight deadline for example, or you’re really immersed in a break-through moment on a song lyric, you can still give that person your full attention for a few minutes.
- Explain you would love to listen to whatever it is they have to say, but you’d like to finish up what you’re doing because you then want them to have your undivided attention.
I can assure you of a much better outcome if you’re upfront and honest, rather than them knowing that you’re only half listening!
Guess what all the following people have in common?
- The most successful business people I have been around
- The amazing people who have mentored me through the years
- The best friends I have
- The family members I connect with most
- The parents of happy, well-adjusted kids in my community
Yes, they are all deep listeners.
Have I Put Them to Sleep?!
On my first business trip to Tokyo, I was responsible for training a number of people. I introduced myself, indicating that I was there from the Boston office and I went on to explain what we would be covering that day. After a short time, I noticed a number of people had their eyes closed and their heads were tilted downward. I thought, “Oh my God, I’ve put them to sleep!” After the session, I made some subtle inquiries and thankfully I found out that often participants close their eyes in meetings because they are listening intently on what is being said. They also would not think it would be a sign of rudeness as it is generally not customary to maintain eye contact for long periods of time, especially in a business setting. Their deep listening was respectful and I was appreciative. I’ve added this tidbit only to point out that deep listening may take on different forms when you are with others from different cultures and I wouldn’t want you to be too quick to judge. My best advice would be to do a little cultural homework on the area you’re visiting. I should have heeded my own words a little earlier!
So Listen Up!
Let’s see if we can take the time to be fully present with those around us. The next time you are listening to another, try the following.
- When you become aware that someone needs your attention, take a few seconds to consciously shift gears.
- Try to block out all random thoughts
- Look steadily into the eyes of the speaker
- Try not to interrupt – wait to respond until they have finished their train of thought
- Listen deeply
I have a pretty good idea they’ll then do the same for you. Thanks for listening!
Would love to hear your thoughts,
Most especially if you think it can help others!
Take what flows for you and let the rest float by.