The Secret To Active Listening (Episode 163)
We've been focusing in on having a connected conversation with our children - and beyond - and this episode is all about active listening. We don't always naturally listen well, and the art of active listening is a practice and habit you can create.
Active Listening requires setting down the agenda and truly wanting to hear.
The disconnect of work and home
One of my friends and mentors, Deb Ingino, sends business-focused leadership emails out through her company, StrengthLeader, which is in partnership with the John Maxwell Team. I love her emails because they are so easily translatable to home.
So many business strategies and self-help models can go way beyond business to all other areas of your life. If you really think about it, the strategies we so often talk about that are helpful in business are just as applicable because it boils down to this: human connection.
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In business, you are looking for connection - to your team, to your audience, etc. At home, same thing. In our family, we talk about how we're a family team. By choice or not, we are in this together, so we have to work together. And the process of active listening is an important piece.
A Boy With No Ears
In one of Deb's emails, she shares about this active listening checklist, and this story about Napoleon Hill's son. In his book Think and Grow Rich (which could arguably be in the top ten of greatest self-help books of all time, according to Wikepedia), Hill shares the story of the birth of his son.
Hill wrote the following:
“I first saw him twenty-four years ago, a few minutes after he was born. He came into the world without any physical sign of ears. The doctor admitted, when pressed for an opinion, that the child might be deaf, and mute for life. I challenged the doctor's opinion. I had the right to do so; I was the child's father. I, too, reached a decision, and rendered an opinion; but I expressed the opinion silently, in the secrecy of my own heart. I decided that my son would hear and speak. Nature could send me a child without ears, but Nature could not induce me to accept the reality of the affliction.”
So Hill filled his home with song and the expectation that his son would be able to hear someday, somehow.
And on one magical day, he noticed his son touching the record player while a song played, and he discovered that his son could, indeed, hear! Through using his mastoid bone, his son had defied the odds predicted at birth – he could engage the sense of sound. Hill was elated at the realization that his son possessed this inherently important ability.
You see, Napoleon Hill knew quite well the importance of not only hearing, but active listening. As he studied greats like Edison, Carnegie and Rockefeller, he learned that, to become a good listener, you must want to hear.
Great leaders are also great listeners. We think of them as great speakers, but closer observation reveals they often listen substantially more than they speak. And they listen intently, learning, and discerning.
Don't be "Hard-of-listening"
You may have heard of being hard of hearing, but think about the profound distinction when you switch that last word. There are many businesses - and households - that may have all hearing individuals, but they are hard-of-listening.
Can you truly listen and take to heart what someone has said, or are you simply hearing the sound, like the leaves blowing in the wind?
So how do you become a great listener?
First, you must actually want to hear...just like Napoleon Hill wanted his son to hear, and he saw his son's desire.
But you can't just stick in that wanting phase; you have to actually take action to implement how to truly listen.
The Active Listening Checklist
As you go about your week, stop, and ask yourself these questions several times a day. You may not be born a great listener; but, with enough “want to” and practice, you can become one. Ask yourself these questions, and use this as an educational opportunity to discuss with your family as well.
1. Did you check your ego before listening, to see the value in learning someone else’s opinion, not just your own?
This is a big element of a connected conversation - are you truly seeking to understand, hopping off your own pedestal and looking for a way to walk forward together? Are you stopping your agenda and truly hearing what the other is saying without rebuttal?
2. Did you look at the person speaking?
Are you showing that you are engaged? Are you looking them directly in the eye? Remember how loud body language can be. Are you looking at your phone, or looking at their eyes? Is your body language as a whole showing that you are engaged in active listening?
3. Did you overcome the urge to interrupt?
This is always a challenge in our home - we are all big talkers, so we always have something to say! And we can speed-talk through like a running baton race with no pause or break in any conversation flow all day long! We can get into the habit of wanting to prove a point and be right over being willing to have a conversation. If you preface the interruption with the truth of it - "I don't really care what you have to say", that sheds a different light on interruptions. And those 7 seconds of space is so, so valuable.
4. Did you suspend your judgment of what is being shared and listen without bias?
This is huge - are you actually allowing for a shift, or are you just moving opinions around between two people? Are you steeping the conversation like a good tea and allowing it to soak in? Or are you grazing on the surface with a "Cheetos" conversation, where it doesn't really fill you, offer any real value, and can sometimes just make a bigger mess than what it's worth?
5. Did you ask clarifying questions?
This can really help to get a handle on your judgment. Instead of, "well I think..." or "why do you think that?" Shift to, "Can you elaborate a bit more? Can you help me understand what you mean by this? Tell me more..."
6. Were you able to sum up the conversation at intervals to show you were truly engaged in the conversation?
This allows you to express your notes - what is the "cream" of the conversation - your biggest takeaways or how you understand it? This is where you are affirming that the conversation is going down the right track - and that you are receiving the conversation in the way the other intended. It's checking in to make sure there is mutual understanding.
Some additional resources for you
- How Do I Talk To My Kids...and Beyond? (Episode 161)
- 7 Seconds will change your communication and connection (Episode 62)
- It's Not About the Strawberry Ice Cream (Episode 162)
- What we have here is a failure to communicate!
- What is your goal?
- Communication, Connection and Prioritizing – Where is Your Spouse In Your Life?
- Chaos of the Heart – Rawness Equals Connection
- Namaste – On Truly Hearing Each Other (Episode 149)
- Self-Love, or Self-Sabotage? (Episode 152)
- Parent Styles – Are they helpful or harmful? (Episode 102)
- How do I equip my kid to “adult”? (Episode 89)
- Learn more about DISC Personality Styles
Your Weekly Challenge:
If you want a relationship, there has to be a give and take. Hop off your pedestals and look at how you can walk together. What do you want to create in your home environment and beyond? Are you moving past hearing and ready to move to active listening? Allow space for each person in your home to feel fully heard.
Because, the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.
And, as we prepare for next week's podcast, how do you recharge? Daily? Comment below and let me know!