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December 4, 2011

Tip of the Week 

Insurance Against Mediocrity 

Powerful Listening - What gets in the way

What is it:  Obstacles that make it hard to hear someone.  Noise from your mind, body, and physical environment.  

Why it’s Important:  When distracted, you can't connect to other people, let alone to your own thoughts. Think of your brain like your refrigerator, both need a certain amount of space/distance from other things (distractions) for optimal focus, connection, and engagement.

The Problem:  Overly scheduled lives and feeling powerless to do something about it prevent many people from clearing enough space for focus and connection.  It's next to impossible for you to engage with your children, customers, or romantic partners unless you have a clear mind. 

4 things that get in the way:

  1. Un-met needs The need to look smart, be right, be liked, etc. distract focus from the speaker because you're thinking about yourself.
  2. Bias or beliefs  Conservative nature, outgoing, shy, fearful, etc. effect how you process what you hear.
  3. Noisy environment  Barking dogs, busy roadway, TV or your mind chatter--what to say next or watching the clock, etc. cause you to miss much of what's said.
  4. Agenda  Knowing the answer before the speaker has fully spoken redirects focus on rebuttals/advice vs. compassion and understanding.

The Tip:  Experiment with the easiest person or the easiest topic. Prepare in advance by deciding which of the four obstacles above you will consciously avoid.  If you have a favorite technique for grounding yourself or clearing your mind, great.  Perhaps you'll choose a distraction-free environment, great, too. Now, strike up a conversation.  The point is to pick something easy and intentionally approach the experiment. Remember to obey the small step rule.


4 ways to know when you're doing it right

  1. The other person mirrors your engagement
  2. You feel surprised by what the other person says
  3. Your shares are relevant and focused
  4. Your biases and opinions didn't distract the conversation

The Benefit:  As with last week's tip, What to Listen For, the benefits are that you connect to the speaker as a whole person and learn about her (and yourself) in the process. Influence is only possible with connected communication.


4 things you'll demonstrate:

  1. Value in your relationships that transcend your world or your "stuff"
  2. Wisdom because you're willing to listen and learn vs. already knowing everything 
  3. Importance in the thoughts and feelings of the speaker -- Hey, if you'll take the time to clear the decks, it must be important, right?
  4. Opportunity for you to get out of your own way to connect with people that matter  

Related Article:  Ruffled Feathers  Value is in Real Time, An End to Rough-Housing,


Related Tip:  Powerful Listening - What to Listen For


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