What do you listen for?
When you begin to “listen to how you listen, you may notice a lot of preconceptions and judgmental comments. For example, even if you’re not parenting a teenager, imagine for a moment you say to your teenager: “Why can’t you put that phone down for just one night and spend time with your family?”
There’s a good chance you have a preconceived notion about what your teenager is going to say before they say it. But what if you hear: “You are right. I am spending way too much time with that phone and I would rather spend more time with you.” Surprise!
Now imagine a conversation at work with a person you experience as a constant critical “naysayer.” As you brainstorm one way to address a difficult situation the critical naysayer speaks up and says, “That’s interesting. I think that might actually work.” Shock!
You might not hear what your teenager or co-worker said because you were in an “already listening” mode, assuming you knew what they were going to say before they said it. You are listening for a negative response.
Listening for assessment—who and what is right and wrong—helps you gather information that validates your judgments. In our own relationship, we have noticed that when one of us has a strong opinion we are skilled at finding information that confirms our opinion. If one of us is feeling persecuted by the other, we listen for information to confirm our feelings of victimization and the feeling of being controlled by the other. Once we fall into these Dreaded Drama Triangle or “DDT” roles, we listen for information to validate the role we are playing.
Listening for possibilities and new perspectives allows you to transition into the TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)® roles of Creator, Challenger, and Coach. Your intent is to listen for learning and growth, which means you are open to new ideas and new information, regardless of whether you agree with what you hear.
This is much easier said than done! The way you think about a subject or issue becomes your “truth.” That truth gives you comfort and a sense of certainty. Listening for information that might “rock your boat” can be challenging.
Deep listening without judgment or blame has always been a challenge for humans because we tend to associate with those who are like us. Learning to listen with an open mind and heart is not a passive act. Such listening creates the conditions for connection, innovation, and creativity—and our world could use a whole LOT more listening to one another!
Here are a few suggestions to help you “listen to how you listen:”
- Observe yourself “taking note” of what you hear yourself say, as though you are an impartial observer. Because we speak based upon what we listen for, witnessing your speaking will support deeper listening.
- Notice when you feel positive feelings from a conversation. This will give you a clue about whether positive feelings only arise when people agree with you.
- Listen for your thoughts and then listen to how you connect your thoughts to the words that come out of your mouth. This will fine-tune which thoughts you choose to say out loud.
These exercises will support you in becoming aware of your preconceived judgments and broaden your ability to hear something new or different. Setting your intention to put on your “listening ears,” as Donna’s two-year-old granddaughter says, is more important than ever. With intention and a desire to notice what you listen for, you will become a valued friend, family member, and co-worker.