Are you listening?
Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of the other person.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Yesterday I ran a ‘Social Connection Call’ for leaders in a corporate organisation. During these calls participants take time in small groups to talk about how they are at this moment. It is only an hour, and the time in small groups is only 15 minutes – yet by the end of the call people said they felt better, relaxed, understood. They saw that their experience was shared. They felt listened to. They went away planning to have similar conversations with their teams.
During this period many people are anxious, stressed and worried. Neuroscience tells us that when this happens we lose energy and motivation. We are quick to judge others and we leap to conclusions. We also know from neuroscience the best strategies for supporting ourselves and others.
The first and perhaps most important is to ‘not suppress’. It can be tempting to hold it all in, to feel that we have to cope and just carry on. Yet science tells us that when we talk about it we release it a bit, by sharing with others we regain some of our energy and motivation. At work we all play a role in helping this to happen. Simply asking someone ‘how are you today’ and stopping to listen, can help them release. It can also help to share how you are so that you have a shared experience, you are able to see each others humanity.
In last week’s webinar I talked about the importance of listening to people and how when we really pay attention we can see and feel the other person in a different way.
To listen well to someone requires will and focus. I have come to believe that listening is active and not passive. We give our full attention to the person we are listening to, becoming aware of our own distractions and then pulling ourselves back to listen. Sometimes when we are listening we get distracted time and again. And each time we can remind ourselves to come back to really listen and hear what the other person is saying. This requires both commitment and effort – both of which feel worth it when we see others around us feeling better, more relaxed and less stressed.
What can you do to support someone by listening today?
About the Author
Jean Balfour is Managing Director of Bailey Balfour and Programme Director of our ICF Accredited Coach Training Programmes (ACTP). Jean is passionate about helping people to have good conversations both at work and at home. She believes that coaching is a life skill and that you never regret learning to coach.