Listening is one of those skills that everyone takes for granted. We think we know how to do it. In fact, we are so sure that we know how to listen that most of us never even consider taking a course or reading a book to learn how to listen better.
My experience, however, is that very few people are good listeners… but those that are, they are revolutionizing their relationships, empowering people around them, and leaving a positive footprint in the world.
Here is a simple breakdown of the three types of listening. What type of listening do you use most often in your day-to-day life?
The three types of listening
Level One: Subjective (All about the listener)
Subjective listening occurs when whatever is said is heard through the experiences of the listener and how he/she relates to the listener. Listening in this case, is based on the agenda or needs of the listener and rarely satisfies the person who is speaking.
In a disagreement this is listening, not to understand, but just to prove the other person wrong. Level on listening is to see how it relates to you, how you can prove or disprove it, how it matters to you, what you do differently, how you deal with the situation….. hmmm, Do you notice a whole lot of “You” in there?
Here is an example of level one listening:
Speaker/Employee – “I’ve been having a hard time getting to work at my scheduled time, and when I do get here, I’m often not ‘on-it’ and ready to go.”
Listener/Manager- “You just have to force yourself to get up earlier. Whenever I have something to do that I don’t want to do, I just remember the Nike commercial, “Just do it.”
As you can see, the speaker in this example shared something vulnerable, personal, and honest. The listener took what was said and made it all about them.
Level Two: Objective (neutral)
Objective listening occurs when the listener is completely focused on the other person. There is no thought about how any of the information relates personally to the listener. This level is much better than subjective listening, and is sometimes very effective, but doesn’t get to the “heart” of the matter.
Here is an example of level two listening:
Speaker/Employee - “I’ve been having a hard time getting to work at my scheduled time, and when I do get here, I’m often not ‘on-it’ and ready to go.”
Listener/Manager - “I really hear that you that you’ve been struggling to be on-time and on-task at work.”
In this example, you can see that the listener heard what was being said and acknowledged it by repeating back to the speaker.
Level Three: Intuitive or Active (all about the speaker)
Intuitive listening occurs when the listener is using all sensory components and intuitively connecting to the real message. The listener has all his or her attention on not only what the speaker says, but also how he or she says it (the tone of voice, energy level, feelings, etc.), including what ISN'T being said.
This level is the most powerful form of listening, and when mastered, allows the listener to deeply connect with the other person. This level of listening is an act of love. When you listen at a level three, you are helping the other person explore deeper into whatever it was that they were originally sharing with you. This level of listening is the seed for emotional intimacy, understanding, connection, collaboration and growth.
It’s important to remember that it doesn’t matter if your intuition is right or wrong – so go out on a limb, trust your hunch and go for it! Right or wrong – it will open the conversation and build intimacy with the speaker.
Here is an example of level three listening:
Speaker/Employee - “I’ve been having a hard time getting to work at my scheduled time, and when I do get here, I’m often not ‘on-it’ and ready to go.”
Listener/Manager – “I hear that you really want to do show up on-time and be effective at your job, but that currently something is getting in the way of that. It sounds like maybe you’re overwhelmed or exhausted and that this situation is challenging and maybe even a little frustrating for you.”
Think about someone you love to be around. Now think about someone who you personally know who inspires you. Finally, think about someone that you have great respect for. Now take a moment and consider, how do these individuals make you feel about yourself? Most people report that when they reflect on the people in their lives who they hold in high regard, their inner experience is that:
Now pause, and reflect on yourself as a leader. Ask yourself: How do you make people feel about themselves? Hint- this is partially what you say and do, but it is also what you don't say.. it's what you think and the energy you transmit. When you think about those you are leading, be it your family, employees or team, are you thinking negative thoughts? I often hear leaders talk in frustration about how those they lead are stupid, incapable, lazy, or childish.
When was the last time that you were inspired to work hard for someone who thought you were stupid or lazy? Yeah, that's what I thought.
Here are four things you can do to become a better leader:
1. Assume everyone is doing their very best
You can choose what you believe and what you assume. Program yourself to assume that everyone is always doing there very best, and if you are not seeing their very best it's because something is getting in the way. With this assumption, you can help someone discover what is getting in the way, and brainstorm solutions on how to remove it. The people you are leading want to do their very best. Everyone does because all humans feel good when living to their highest potential and producing their best work. No one got up this morning and said, "I hope today I can do a really shitty job that everyone around me is disappointed in." Of course not! They want to do their best, and you want them to do their best. So, if their best work isn't getting done, help them discover the obstacles in the way of their best work. This is true service, and the best leaders are servants.
2. Find what they are doing well, and celebrate the heck out of it.
Praise begets more praiseworthy behavior. Praise is the humans like water is to flowers. Have you ever seen a wilting, drooping flower stand up tall just hours after watering? Humans work in a similar way. If you have people on your team who are apathetic and low-energy, I bet they are not getting enough praise and celebration in their lives. As a leader, one of your jobs is to help individuals celebrate all the things that they are doing right. You are a human, so I don't have to tell you that humans are great at self beat-up, self-criticism and the allowing the monkey mind to re-hash the negative at 3am. We are not as good at finding, acknowledging and celebrating the good about ourselves. As a leader, be conscious of watering your employees with praise - but, please note - this praise MUST be authentic. Taking the time to find true appreciation in your heart for those you are leading is a prerequisite to delivering praise.
3. Discover their uniqueness, and help them live authentically.
It's not just a cliche, each person has unique gifts, strengths, and a way of being. Living your gifts and strengths and honoring your unique way of being is call authenticity. When we live authentically is when we will really shine. This is where the magic happens. Think about those who you are leading, can you easily describe each of their individual authentic expressions? If not, this is an area where you can transform you team. When you discover (and help your team discover) what makes each one of them unique and special, you will be able to use those gifts to produce incredible results. To read more on how authenticity impacts success, check out this article in Forbes.
4. Hold them as able
When you hold someone as able, you set a high bar for them, you don't take excuses, you have firm boundaries and accountability and you don't hover or over-manage. When you hold someone as able, you recognize the capacity in that individual to achieve the goals and tasks you've agreed on. Holding your team as able builds a culture of engagement, trust, and creativity. Holding someone as able is a gift and a service. It is you recognizing their greatness and holding the space for them to fulfill that greatness.
I believe that everything in life is a gift. I believe that at any given time, perfection is happening. If, in the moment, I don't see it this way, I continue to wait, to look, and to be present until the gift is revealed. I don't know if this belief is true or not true - but I do know, without a doubt, that believing this makes my life better.
This is the really cool thing about beliefs, they don't have to be 'true' or 'right', because ultimately they are all a made-up story in your head. So, if you are going to make up something to believe, make it something that brings more joy, peace, meaning and fulfillment to your life.
I believe that with a curious and open mind, we can 'try on' belief systems (just like a pair of jeans) and see how they fit, how they feel, and what impact they have on our lives. Years and years ago, one of my teachers asked me to try on the belief system that I talked about above, "Perfection is happening at any given time". At first my mind rebelled,
"What about rape?! What about abandonment?, What about the bad things that have happened to me in my past!?"
Then, I took a deep breath, and I tried it on. It took some time to get the fit. I had to remember to use my new thinking and to see things through my new filter. My experience went from resistance to fun.
"I am stuck in traffic, I wonder why that's perfect?"
"My feelings just got hurt, I wonder why that's perfect?"
I started to find that because I was looking for perfection.... I found it. I began to see how Life was conspiring in my best interest. How everything was interwoven to provide me with exactly what I needed next. I saw that I could rest.
And then, the unthinkable happened. My husband, my son and I were hit head-on by an intoxicated driver. Both cars were going 55mph and my son and I were airlifted from the scene. It took them over 2 hours to remove me from the car. The jaws of life weren't enough to extricate me, and they had to saw the top of the car off. During that time, I was bleeding out internally, slowly loosing consciousness (and my life). My son was being taken, all alone, to the trauma center in a helicopter, and my husband said dazed beside me, crushed between the steering wheel and his seat, his leg broken. Was this perfect?
Let me tell you, my friends, how challenged I was to accept this. Days later, after several surgeries, I sat in my hospital bed utterly confused. I felt abandoned by my beliefs, and by the Universe that I had come to have such a close, co-creating relationship with. I was devastated. I could understand my physical injuries, and how to heal from them, but this mental/emotional betrayal I could see no way out of.
Even after I recovered, I could not go back to being a Life Coach. How could I hold the space for another, when I couldn't hold the space for myself? How could I help others find their answers to their questions inside of themselves, when I couldn't find my answers to my questions inside myself? Then, I had to do the hardest recovery of all. Harder then the steps from hospital bed, to walker, to cane, to walking again. Now, I had to turn towards my fear and bring it closer. I had to stop running away from it, avoiding it and distracting from it.I had to go deeper into the shame, the anger, and the bewilderment. That was the only way for me to discover if it was perfect after all.
Was there a gift for me here?
What is your 'car accident'? What is the thing that you can't come to peace with and find perfection in? There is a gift waiting there for you. I am sure of it. Are you brave enough to turn into your fear? Are you ready to stop running? I can't promise it will be an easy journey, but I can promise it will be a rewarding one.
I finally did find my gift. Then, I started Coaching again. To my surprise - I was even better at it (another gift!). And the funny thing is, with the PTSD and Anxiety that are still with me, I am challenged to discover new gifts all the time.
I don't know a lot of things, but I do know that life was meant to be lived, and part of living is being fully present to experience your ENTIRE story. This means the guilt, the shame, the fear, it's all part of your messy, beautiful journey as a human. Don't deny yourself the gift of experiencing all of it. Don't seek only happiness.
Find the perfection.
Have you learned about the power of just being quiet. In your life for your personal well-being, in your relationships & communication, as part of being a great leader and motivator... more is less. So, just be quiet, already!
When was the last time that you were quiet? I'm not talking about just your own silence.., but when was the last time you allowed your soul to rest in the space of silence? This means no music, no TV, no reading, and yup, you've got to set down your phone. Most of my clients feel incredible uncomfortable when they first sit with silence. Stopping all the input of our crazy world that we are bombarded with daily can feel really new, strange.. and even kinda scary. If you start to spend time in silence, and you want to run away and distract yourself... you are on the right path! lol. Alternatively, when you learn to sit in silence. When you grow your comfort with yourself and with life itself, you will find yourself being able to handle stress and decision-making in your life with greater ease. You will also find your self-confidence increasing. That's right, just be sitting in silence and not distracting yourself, you can increase your self-confidence.
Silence in a conversation can be the most valuable part. Really listening, allowing yourself or the person you are with to have the time to fully think about what they want to say. I am a mom of a teenager, and I have to consciously shut up ALL the time! You don't build relationships by constantly giving advice, showing how smart you are, solving people's problems for them, or giving your story on the subject. You build relationships by listening, by allowing for space. Holding "the space" for another person means to connect with them energetically and allow for whatever they are feeling to be present with you. It's powerful stuff.
Finally, if you want to motivate someone - shut up, already. Don't tell them, show them. What inspires is actions, energy and experiences. If you want to be a great leader, you must model the behavior and feelings that you want to inspire in others. Of course, sometimes words are important, but we over-use them and often our actions and feelings are not in alignment with our words, which can do the opposite of inspire others. First, find the quiet space inside of yourself. Then, lead from that place.
Silence is where the power is.
Mindy Amita Aisling
ICF Life Coach,
NFPT Fitness Trainer,
OMA Certified Mediator
Mindy Aisling is a certified life and business coach in Bend, OR, exceeding all of the educational requirements & training set forth by the ICF.
She has worked with such organizations as St. Charles Hospital, Soroptimists, The Dispute Resolution Center, Olympic Medical Center, Americorps, and Juvenile and Family Services.
Mindy has been featured in the New York Times, The Seattle Times, The Bend Bulletin, The Peninsula Daily News, KOMO 4 TV, The Oregonian and many more. You can learn more about Mindy here.
Mindy offers professional, affordable online coaching to clients around the world, and local coaching to clients in Bend, Oregon.
Licensed and Insured