So far in this series, we’ve confronted the degree to which the way we listen to (and interact with) people is shaped and limited by certain developed filters, and explored some of the most common types of filters. Now, I’d like to take a look at what this all makes available, and how we can “upgrade” our ability to listen.
When we are unaware of our own filters, the constraints on our ability to listen are invisible to us and we are left mistaking “our world” for “the” world. In this condition, we are likely to be ineffective in our actions, not to mention completely confused about the actual source of the problem. So our efforts to change are inevitably unproductive, and sometimes counterproductive, as they are cultivated from symptoms instead of the root cause.
So what does it take to free ourselves up from all this?
The first part is simply to notice it as it’s happening; simple awareness is the access point. See, what we don’t distinguish, what stays hidden in the background, runs us. When we see these self-imposed limits in action, when we see them for what they are, their grip is loosened and we are freed up and able to interact with life naturally and effectively.
So, the next level up from our automatic, constrained, past-based listening is what I’m going to call “real” listening or authentic listening: listening to someone, fully hearing and receiving someone, as they are, right now. To really listen is to simply accept a communication totally, as it is, without adding to it, changing it, altering it, resisting it, even agreeing with it. This is not about agreement or disagreement, it’s just about getting it.
When we just get what someone is communicating, we are left naturally in a place of freedom, of power in being able to act effectively with what’s happening. The awareness of our automatic listening gives us choice in how we listen, and we can choose to listen completely, with nothing in the way. Not only does this provide a natural immediate effectiveness, but when we give someone the experience of really being fully heard and “gotten”, we create the space to have a new conversation and outcome where previously we had been limited to what our filters, our “past”, would allow for.
Most of us, at least once in our lives, has had the experience of being really gotten by someone else. It is a beautiful feeling, a rich, fulfilled experience that we covet as social beings, whether explicitly or underneath our conscious awareness. To authentically listen to someone gives them that gift. When we choose consistently to listen fully, to be aware of, allow and accept what actually is, as it is, right now, we open the door to effective interactions, extraordinary relationships, new opportunities and unpredictable results.
Next month, we will get into the “creative” levels of listening; on a scale, if automatic, filtered listening is below zero, authentic listening is zero (nothing added, nothing taken away) and then there is (1) “listening for” and (2) committed listening.
In the meantime, take the opportunity to exercise your ability to notice your listening, notice its impact, set it aside and truly listen to people. See what becomes possible, what starts to occur. Is there a prospective client with whom the conversation, and your prospects of working, have stalled? Notice how you’re already-always listening to him/her, confront the impact of that on your actions and results, and then just set it aside and really actually listen. See if you can really get what they’re saying, why they’re saying it, what’s important to them, their experience, etc. Don’t engineer a conversation, just listen. From there, something like a new direction may just open up. Are you at an impasse with a coworker or employee around a critical project? Again, notice, let it go and listen. Once the listening is complete, there is actual space to communicate, see the situation clearly and authentically commit to effective action.
As always, please let us know how this is going for you. What’s important to us is empowering you to fulfill on what’s important to you, so your contributions and feedback are critical and appreciated.
Lastly, thank you. We are committed to making a difference, to providing you real, lasting value- and we are clear that it is only through your listening of us that we get the opportunity to do that. So, thank you for who you are, and thank you for who we are.