Catriona Futter – Equip For Life Coaching Becoming your best self and living life to the full – 07713 974138

To really listen is to give a precious gift

Listen with a view to understandWe are well into Christmas season now, with all that entails. Everywhere we turn, we are swamped by advertisers and marketers seeking to encourage us to buy that perfect gift to give to the one we love. Or something along those lines.

Interestingly, there has also been something of a backlash to the crazy, totally-over-the-top commercialism and consumerism of this time of year, starting in part as a reaction to the Black Friday sales of last month. Why do we need so much stuff? When we live in a part of the world where we have so much, and other areas of the world have so very very little, and yet there is enough to go around – something is wrong somewhere.

Last week we were talking about the habit of win/win – living with an abundance mentality that says, there is enough for all, and my actions can be for our mutual benefit and enrichment, and not simply for my own self-focused gain.

Well, here’s a thought – how about during this Christmas season you give a gift that is incredibly precious, won’t contribute to climate change in any way, does not involve struggling round the shops being overpowered by cheesy Christmas tunes, and won’t cost you anything – at least in financial terms.

And it will give worth, value, and a depth of care and empathy to the recipient that has the potential to open up greater riches in your relationship.

Let me introduce the habit that I believe carries the greatest power and impact:

To listen with a view to understand.

Imagine something with me for a moment.

You have something on your mind and heart that is really bothering you. Someone you know asks you how you are, and you decide to be vulnerable, so you open up and start to talk about the issue in question. But the person to whom you are speaking jumps in before you have got to the root of the issue with an anecdote of their own about a situation they were in, moves swiftly to advice about what they would do in your situation, and then is distracted by a text coming in on their phone. The overall effect is to leave you feeling shut down, raw in your vulnerability, unsupported, frustrated, and worse than when you started.

Ever experienced this?

Or – swift look inside of yourself – maybe you have behaved in this way towards someone who was wanting to talk to you?

How often do we, as humans, listen to each other because we want to be understood, rather than because we are seeking to understand?

When we listen from our own perspective, we tend to evaluate what the other person is saying whilst they are still speaking, and we interpret what they are saying from our own reference point. We then form opinions and judgments based on an incomplete picture and a lack of understanding of what was really being said – all this is usually subconscious and happens all the time.

The communication exchange becomes all about us and not about the person who is actually doing the talking. We are listening with a view to responding – with our own opinions, advice, judgments, assumptions.

Imagine instead we seek to listen with a view to understanding.

As we listen, we seek to get under the person’s skin and see things from their point of view – to not only hear their words, but hear the emotions behind the words. We pay attention to their body language and give them space to express how they really feel.

The person being listened to feels heard, understood and therefore valued and of worth. And as they are given time and space to explore the issue or problem on their mind and the emotions behind it, and talk it through without any assumptions, judgement, advice being offered, it is then that the speaker often will untangle the issue for themselves and gain greater clarity as to possible solutions.

Think about some of the situations you are in just now – with your work colleagues, friends, your partner, your family. Consider any problems within any of those relationships. How many of those problems are caused by misunderstandings? And therefore, how many of those problems could be resolved or prevented if we took time to really listen to and understand each other, to learn where the other person was coming from? What is the potential then for how much more rewarding and fulfilling those relationships and situations could therefore be?

Habit 7 in full is to seek first to understand then to be understood.

To be understood is about influence.

We all want to be heard, to be respected, to be valued. We all want to have influence – to make a difference and feel that we matter and have worth.

We tend to think that influence is about putting our argument across well, about presenting ourselves convincingly.

But influence is less about speaking and more about listening.

Listening to someone so that they feel heard and understood creates more openness, deeper communication and mutual trust and respect. This is the basis of influence.

This is the basis of influence and greater interpersonal communication.

This is the gift that really does keep on giving. Perhaps in this Advent season as we approach Christmas, we can choose to listen with a view to really understanding each other and in so doing, bring greater depth, openness and connection to all our relationships.

Inspired? Encouraged? Get in touch!

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