Are You Truly Listening?

The success of any relationship, whether in life or business, rests firmly on the ability of those involved to effectively communicate. The reality is that most of us are not taught how to communicate with the intention of building relationships and creating solutions. If you are not truly listening, then you cannot possibly communicate effectively.

 Simply look at your own life and the relationships you share with others to understand the impact and importance of your communication process. It is clear to see that, in those relationships you find most rewarding and fulfilling, communication is more effective than not. Conversely, when you consider your relationships that are the most unsettling, that cause the most pain and suffering, you will see that communication is either not present at all, or is so limited in its effectiveness, that the relationship suffers as a result. The lack of effective communication often leads to broken businesses, disgruntled team members, unsatisfied clients, “failed” marriages, disassociation with loved ones, frustration and anger to name a few.

 Here are some important questions for you to consider: Do you like it when others truly listen to you? Do you feel respected, acknowledged and valued when others really listen to what you are saying? Are you more open and honest with people who truly listen to you? In other words, do you like it when others care enough to be absolutely present with you in their listening? We all want to be heard, which begs the question: If you want others to truly listen to you, then why would you ever consciously choose to not truly listen to them?

 There are several sabotaging behaviors, or blockers, that limit our listening abilities. These include:

■ Sparring – You are actually looking for things to disagree with.

■ Derailing – You derail the train of conversation, with sudden changes to the topic or make jokes, as you become bored or uncomfortable.

■ Rehearsing – Your attention is focused on preparing what you will say next.

■ Advising – You believe you have the answer to the other person’s situation, and you go into the mode of giving advice rather than truly listening.

■ Judging – You are prejudging the person you are communicating with, and using negative labels to do so.

■ Placating – You agree with everything the other person says in an effort to get along, to be liked or because you aren’t truly listening.

■ Being Right – Your mind is focused on arranging the information, saying things and/or acting in ways so as to not be wrong.

■ Day Dreaming – Your attention is on anything other than the conversation, like a vacation you want to take, things you need to get done or an unresolved issue in your life.

■ Identifying – You use the stories of others as a reference point to tell yours 

Effective listening is simple: Listen to others as you want to be listened to. It’s about caring enough to really listen, and stopping your mental chatter so that you can absorb what another is sharing with you. By taking this approach, you will find that others will listen to you more and mutual respect will grow. Ultimately, you will become more open with each other and the valuable pieces of information that are necessary to healthier relationships, and more successful businesses, will be heard.

There is a solution to every situation you will ever face, as long as you are willing to work for one through communication that has the intention of creating a solution. Building the powerful habit of truly listening is the first step in becoming an effective communicator. In my next column, I will explore the other critical component of effective communication, the actual communication itself, so that you may come to see the tremendous benefits of communicating on a conscious level.