Have you ever found yourself listening to another and realize you’re not actually hearing what they’re saying? We’re all guilty of it at one time or another. We show up but are tuned out for whatever reason. Sometimes, it might be because we’re formulating our next statement instead of acknowledging the message they’re sending. Other times, it may be because we’re just letting our minds wander and ping off the highlights we hear. Whether in a professional setting or a personal one, this situation often invites conflict and the almost sitcom-cliched remark, “You never listen!” The lesson is stingingly poignant that listening isn’t the same as hearing.
Listening is an important–yet sometimes difficult–skill that ought to be an ongoing and purposeful practice. Though we listen to one another every day, purposefully enhancing listening skills is something that we could all agree everyone should do. As a manager or employee, we benefit both ourselves and our teams when we pay closer attention to the messages being expressed. As a romantic partner, listening allows us to better understand our better half through the deeper intent they convey. As a parent, by listening to our children, we can learn of their struggles and find, in those little moments, windows through which we may offer precious baubles of wisdom that they’ll carry for the rest of their lives.
In the article What is Active Listening from VeryWellMind mental health researcher Alrin Cuncic, suggests that when those bouts of dwindling attention strike us, we should start asking questions–especially instead of developing our own replies. Ask questions about the topic our peer, partner, or child is discussing. “Much like a therapist listening to a client, you are there to act as a sounding board rather than ready to jump in with your own ideas and opinions about what is being said”. Actually listening to those in our lives shows them that we can be trusted and relied upon. It creates opportunities to strengthen those relationships while positioning ourselves as irreplaceable and unique in a world increasingly busy with buzzing distractions.
This week, take a few moments to learn the difference between advocacy and inquiry and when to use them in conversation. Then, start practicing inquiry-based listening in your next conversation. Take more time to listen to another and you’ll likely find deeper fulfillment and wisdom that comes from the conversation.
“Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error.”
— Thomas Jefferson
Do you have an idea you want to share with an empowered community of self-aware professionals? If you’d like to contribute an idea or article to ‘In The Flow of Work’ on the Evolve blog, just send us a message or submit a post to our Head of Content, Adam Schneider