Change the conversation. Change the results.
5 Guidelines for Learning Conversations
Guideline 1: Listen Deeply for Understanding
In our first article, we introduced the "5 Guidelines for Learning Conversations" as basic ground rules for intentional conversations -- conversations that have a purpose at work, in school, at home and in the community.
When everyone involved in the conversation understands, agrees to and practices these guidelines, conversations become a safe space to create change, whether that change is commitment and follow-through on agreed-upon actions, or simply a change in the sense of learning, gaining a deeper understanding of each other or an important issue.
The first guideline is to Listen Deeply for Understanding.
Hearing simply requires that sound vibrations reach the ear, but listening requires that we focus our attention on the meaning being conveyed by another, silencing our inner dialogue so that our minds are intent on understanding and learning.
On a more subtle level, deep listening also requires that we not judge what the other person is saying, compare what we are hearing to other concepts, plan our response to what is being said, or perform the myriad of other mental tasks that we habitually do when we process sensory data. Deep listening is listening for understanding from a place of learning, not from a place of knowing or judging.
We encourage you to practice the baby step of introducing this one guideline into your conversations and asking others to commit to practicing it just as you commit to it yourself.
Making the conscious effort together to learn to listen deeply is a small step that can have an enormous ripple effect on your conversations and your relationships.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help you engage in the multiple methods for developing and maintaining focus and attention in meetings.
This guideline asks us to listen, not merely hear. Hearing simply requires that sound vibrations reach the ear, but listening requires that we focus our attention on the meaning being conveyed by another, silencing our inner dialogue so that our minds are intent on understanding and learning.
For example, how often have you been in a conversation with someone only to start thinking about what you’re going to say next or where you’re going for lunch? Maybe you’re genuinely interested in what the other person is saying, but then a particular phrase or even a gesture or tone of voice triggers a memory, or an emotion or a train of thought that completely distracts you without your even realizing it. These distractions are often referred to as cognitive noise or listening obstacles.
Cognitive noise will raise its head in any meeting simply because, as human beings, we have ideas about almost everything we’ve ever come into contact with. In a conversation, particularly in formal meetings, these ideas can distract us, or cause us to be overly focused on one idea and miss others.
Learning to listen for understanding, also known as deep listening, will not happen overnight. It takes practice and consistent conscious effort to break poor listening habits.