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Listen to Connect: Miracles Happen When You Do

“Communication happens at the psychological level, not at the verbal level” It is the life force of our relationships and an effective team. The essence of communication is intention. Listening is directly influenced by our intentions. While on one level listening is about being informed or about influencing others, listening to connect is the most powerful way to relate with others to bring about both personal and interpersonal transformation. Listening to connect involves asking questions for which you don’t have any answers. Listening to connect is to give someone unconditional space to speak, not to judge.
When we listen to connect, others feel safe to explore alternatives. When we listen to judge, we impose our beliefs about them and shape them into the person we want to see – and often limit their power and potential. They become a diminished version in their perception of themselves
When we listen to connect – we allow their aspirational self to emerge – the self that wants to grow. We think out loud with them, co-create with them, and share their dreams with them – yet we often take away that space with our need to be right – or impose our values at their expense.
What Drives Your Listening Shapes Your World
Our listening is influenced by events, relationships, experiences, history and feelings in the moment. As objective as we would like to be in our listening, we are subject to the effects of our physical and emotional states. Being tired, angry, elated or stressed predisposes us to attend selectively to what we hear. Recall a recent situation when you were the listener. Did you listen to facts or to specific words? Did you paraphrase these words in your mind? Did this lead to new impressions? Were you affected by the speaker’s voice, dress, demeanour, mood, or attitude? Were you evaluating the speaker’s effectiveness or importance or judging his or her dress? Or, were you so preoccupied that you didn’t listen at all?
Since we can’t attend to everything we hear we listen selectively. But what directs our listening? Why do people who hear the same speech often walk away with different impressions? Obviously, they didn’t “hear” the same thing. We hear one-sixth as fast as we think, and so the mind has time to construct questions, inferences, and associations. Do we use this time wisely? We can become aware and sensitive to our ineffective listening moments in the here & now. Consider the following four types of listening behaviours:

  1. Noise-in-the-attic listening. That is, sit silently while others talk. Outwardly appear to be listening but inwardly listening to our own noise in the attic, our intrapersonal dialogue –disengaged and involved in our own mental processes.
  2. Face-value listening. We think we are hearing the facts; but the words we are hearing are often our interpretations. In face value listening words are heard more for their literal meanings, not as tools for understanding. Our experiences should add depth to our listening.
  3. Position listening. In business, people tend to use position listening when they seek clues to how their job performance is perceived. Position listening can lead to faulty assumptions and destroy the morale of a high-performing team.
  4. Listening to connect. How we listen impacts our performance and all we do. When we listen to connect we create a platform for peering into each other’s minds, and give birth to our next-generation thinking, enabling us to set more helpful, meaningful, and satisfying objectives for the future. People thrive when connected, on affirmation, not criticism and judgement. The best way to influence others is to listen to them.

Sources: Johan Cronjé, Specialist Team Facilitator & Coach, Intégro Learning SA; Judith E. Glaser, CEO of Benchmark Communications Inc. She is an Organizational Anthropologist, and consults to Fortune 500 Companies.