Some of you may have seen the series “Allo, Allo..”, where this one-liner was used often enough for people to remember and use it.
I use the one-liner too in some of my workshops, and at least the attention and focus is sharpenend for a moment.
But, did it ever happen to you that somebody is telling you a story and that at the end you have no clue as to what was told, as you were not truly listening? Just listening is already an effort, let alone trying to understand what is being meant.
I was already adult for many years before I found out that listening actually is a skill and can be learned. But it was only a couple of years ago, I learned that there is a even higher form of listening: Active Listening.
No matter what your profession is or what you do in your private life, being able to actively listen will help you in everything you do or want to achieve. But like with every other skill, it takes time and practice to learn it and you will find yourself not using the skill as many times as you are using the skill at first. Making it a habit, will help you even more.
Now, what is this active listening all about? Quite simply said: “being genuinely curious to know and understand all the other person is saying”.
- If you are curious, you focus your attention and sharpen your senses.
- If you are curious, you will ask questions to understand better and more.
- If you are curious, you forget about your own opinions on the topic.
- If you are curious, you show the other person your true interest in your eyes and body language.
There are two parties benefitting here:
- You, as you will have understood what the other person tries to get across.
- The other person, as they feel listened to and have the best conditions to make the other (you) help understand the message.
How difficult can it be?
Well, if I take my own experience for example, very difficult. Even knowing how it works and having praticed it over and over again, I notice that I still have to “switch on” my active listening mode. When in consultancy, coaching or training situations, it is switched on automatically nowadays. However in day-to-day situations, it is still not there if I do not consiously engage it.
You know why I still have troubles? I seem to love my own thoughts. I seem to love thinking all the time. My head sometimes does not stop for a whole day and even sometimes parts of the nights.
And here comes the truth about a defect in the human race……WE ARE NOT ABLE TO THINK AND LISTEN AT THE SAME TIME.
It is like two buttons. When one is “on”, the other is “off” and visa versa. They may be “off” at the same time (allthough I do not seem to manage that), but they cannot be “on” at the same time. This means that while you are thinking, you cannot be listening to the other person.
Active listening therefore means : STOP THINKING (and in particular about what your opinion is about what is being said).
If you just listen, without an opinion, you are truly open en present for the other person and the message might come to you as it was meant.
Of course you want to think about what is being said. But you do this thinking, after the other person has spoken. If you were really listening and it was not clear, questions will automatically come up and you can ask these to satisfy your curiousity.
If you want, start trying this active listening for 3 minutes at a time with somebody you have a hard time listening to.
You will feel a difference in yourself, as you will start to notice things about this other person, you did not notice before. You will also see a difference in the other person, as there is nothing as wonderful and making you feel good, as truly being listened to. They will feel heard and that is important.
Active listening is a skill, but if you use it, it feels like a GIFT for those who you use it with. Just remember how it felt to you when somebody truly showed interest and curiousity for what you had to say. You can give this back to others.
How do you make yourself stop thinking? What are your methods to keep the attention on the other person, rather than on your own thoughts?
Let us know via the comments and help us with your experience.
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