Are we at a particular moment in our history where listening is in short supply?
It would be easy to think we are, given the shouting and jostling for our attention that we are subjected to by brands, politicians, news media, social media, advertising…..
Perhaps it’s always been like this, but the volume has just got louder? Perhaps the need to be strident and demanding is because we’ve forgotten that the demanders of our attention need listeners?......or else, like impatient toddlers, they’ll just shout louder.
Unusually maybe, we believe that the key to interrupting this one way flood of attention grabbing is to change the dance of talking and listening. So that, instead of joining in with the talkers, we begin by honing our listening. Which might mean also changing how we listen.
To check your own listening try these questions: What do you listen for? Do you listen differently to different people? Even when you think you are listening, is there a torrent of talk going on inside your own head? How long can you really listen for, before you have to speak…..1 minute? 5 minutes?....Longer…..? Are some people or topics a turn off – you don't even start to listen to them? Do you listen for mistakes? Do you listen for solutions? Do you listen for views that support your own? Or are different from yours?
Most of us have subtle and skilful filters which mean we listen quite differently depending on who is doing the talking and what the talking is about.
Becoming more skilful at noticing your own ways of listening helps you recognise how others listen. And once you’re aware of what you do currently you begin to choose other ways to listen.
Simple shifts such as listening for connections between what different people are saying or tuning into potentially new solutions that you hadn’t seen before, helps you steer discussions along different routes.
You may notice too that the quality and tone of discussion becomes more real as your own new listening reveals sharper questions, brighter insights and different ideas.
So….. did you pass your Listening MOT?