Jump for my love…the art of listening

Rosanna Machado | February 24, 2021

Without realising it, I find myself tuning out of what’s happening in a meeting as I am busy preparing what I am going to say next. I am a big fan of being prepared but sometimes we can be in danger of steamrolling our own agenda through, irrespective of what’s happening on the day. The key, I believe, is to get the right balance of preparation and improvisation. A greater understanding of what’s going on for the other person will allow for a more meaningful exchange and ultimately a better outcome and to achieve this, we need to actively listen.

One of my favourite quotes about listening comes from Jack Zenger who says “Good listeners are like trampolines: You can bounce ideas off them, and rather than absorbing your ideas and energy, they amplify, they energise and clarify your thinking. They make you feel better not by merely passively absorbing but by actively supporting. This lets you gain energy and height like a trampoline.”

Good listening is not about saying silent. It is about bringing your whole self to the conversation, being present and playing back what is said it a supportive way. It is a two-way dialogue, yet we don’t have to dominate or suggest our way of doing things. Listening and coaching colleagues can lead to a more powerful outcome and an outcome formed by the individual themselves.

In our busy world, we can be guilty of asking questions but wanting a cursory response or only listening to the parts that support our own opinion. When I entered the world of coaching, I had to leave behind my need to control and advise in each situation and to listen to the situation I face. My best coaching sessions happen when I am fully present, let go of any preconceptions about the outcome, actively listen and respond to what I hear. And whilst we may think that asking someone how they are and having to listen to a long response is slowing us down, it is that very answer that will frame how you respond and could change the whole nature of the interaction for the better.

In a virtual world, listening can seem like hard work, so what can we do to foster the art of listening?

  • Create the right environment for the interaction. Old skool phone calls often allow parties to listen more deeply as people are not reliant on the visual cues
  • Ensure that the right people are present
  • In a group situation, pick up on signals and curate the conversation by inviting people to contribute as this may not occur as naturally in a virtual world. Follow up with individuals after a group session if you feel that didn’t have the opportunity to be fully listened to
  • Be curious and ask questions that will promote discovery and insight
  • Build up the other person’s self esteem
  • Listen with your eyes and pick up on non-verbal cues such as body language and moods
  • Build on the conversation in a supportive way
  • Be careful not to make assumptions or jump into practicalities too soon
  • Use empathy to understand the point of view of others
  • Try to avoid the natural instinct of responding with a negative answer to someone’s suggestion. I love the idea of being an angel’s advocate rather than a devil’s advocate!

Who will you enable to jump today?