I (Donna) recently had a challenging conversation that helped me realize, again, how important listening skills are. Here is the story:
I called an audiologist to have my hearing tested. I have had ringing in my ears for a few years and wanted to have it checked out again. The receptionist eagerly found a time that worked for me and then asked several questions.
“Do you have any insurance and if so what company?” she asked. “Yes, I said,” and attempted to share the insurance company. Before I could finish my answer, she said it didn’t matter which coverage because she would just copy my card when I arrived. She then asked me a few details about the ringing in my ears. I shared one point and she suddenly interrupted me a second time to ask another question.
The third and fourth questions came like lightening. I attempted to answer and each time she interrupted me and finished my sentences, apparently knowing what I was about to say. After a final interruption I thought to myself, “How ironic that I want my hearing tested and the assistant isn’t listening to me!” I felt invisible and found an excuse to end the call.
When I told David my exasperating experience he wondered if the assistant had heard the answers before and wanted to show her competence by answering before I could finish what I was saying. He also wondered if she was bored and just didn’t want to listen because she had “heard it all before.”
Not feeling listed to, I felt unseen and chose to disengage from the call. That experience has made me more aware of how I listen and curious if others feel “listened to” in my presence.
Have you reflected lately on how you listen to others? Here are a few questions to consider:
- Do you listen with assessment, deciding whether you agree or disagree with what is being shared?
- Do you pretend to listen, waiting for the moment you can jump-in and make a point?
- Do you redirect the conversation back to yourself?
- Do you predict what others will say, justifying your interruptions?
- Do you worry that you will forget what you want to say and interrupt to make your point?
- Do you spend more time preparing to talk, than really listening?
If you listen for who or what is right or wrong, you will listen only for information that supports your point of view. This communication pattern, or lack of communication, keeps the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) going. Other people may feel Persecuted and disengaged, as Donna did.
When you listen deeply to others, you are giving them the gift we all want—to be listened to—which makes it possible to create empowered and trusting relationships that are the basis of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)®. In order to relate to others as Creators, and through the TED* roles of Creator, Challenger, and Coach, you must view the other as valuable and worthy of your time to listen so you can understand their perspective—regardless of whether or not you agree with them or have heard it all before.
Listening in this way allows the other person’s thinking to unfold and requires less energy from you as you listen to understand, rather than listen to respond. When you give your undivided and authentic attention to another, you become a catalyst for their Creator to emerge.
You cannot control how others listen to you. All you can do—and it is a very big thing—is give the gift of listening to others.