What Am I Listening for?

06 Feb
by Bridget DiCello

People like to be listened to, receive your attention and be heard.
We know that we should listen in conversation with friends, associates, employees and supervisors.
Even the Super Bowl coaches say they listen more now to their players. 

But, what is it we are listening for?
Haven’t you been in a situation where you felt you were supposed to listen as the person went on and on…? That certainly didn’t feel like the productive thing to do at that time!
And are you supposed to listen, when you feel you already know “the answer”?

Purposeful listening is paying attention to hear the messages the person is trying to communicate, relating them to your overall purpose for having the conversation, and asking the right curious questions to arrive at these two results.

Listen with a purpose. Know why you are entering a conversation in the first place. If you don’t know why, don’t enter the conversation yet. I’m serious. If it is simply for social purposes, make sure the other person would see it that way too, or they may be trying to communicate something serious and you appear to ignore them.

When you enter a conversation with a purpose, you stay focused on what you want to accomplish, while realizing that unless the other person begins to see and buy in to that purpose, you will not be successful – whether you need their help or cooperation, their willingness to be passive, or their active engagement.

You want reports to be completed on time.
They have a million excuses.
You want to tell them to get them done on time, ask if they get it, get a head nod, and have results be consistent and what you’ve demanded.
Fat chance.
The idea behind listening is to find out why they’ve been late – really why they’ve been late.
By asking questions that lead them through their thought process, and listening to the answers clearly enough to lead them in a way that they will follow you willingly, they will discover why their reports are late. Then you can ask my very favorite question: What specifically will you do differently?

Some of my other favorite questions as you listen are: (asked with genuine curiosity)
Really? Why do you think that happened?
How else could you have approached this?
Then what did they say? (chances are they aren’t listening well to others, leading to miscommunication, a productivity killer)
Why do you think they did what they did? Seriously, why do you think they were ‘upset’, ‘stubborn’ or ‘lazy’?

In order to listen well, you must know what it is you want to accomplish in the conversation, set an agenda if you can, listen for obstacles and positive movement forward, and ask the right curious questions to steer the conversation in a productive direction.

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