Tag: ART of Listening

Founders Corner – The ART of Listening

Children Will Listen from the Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway show, Into The Woods.

You may not have expected to open this month’s Founder’s Corner to experience me singing. Yet given this month is all about listening, I thought it fitting to grab your attention by demonstrating the impact and power of Listening.

Hi, I’m Byron Darden with another edition of Leading with Purpose on Purpose. In our continuing series on Transitions, this month we focus on The ART of Listening and its impact on relationship building. This is a particularly significant topic when you consider the emotions that are stirred when we find ourselves moving through major transitions in our lives. 

Whether I’m coaching leaders transitioning within their organizations to more senior roles, advising them on how to approach retirement, or making the decision to leave their corporate jobs to start their own firms, launch a nonprofit organization, or simply follow their aspirations beyond 9am to 5pm (which I must admit is a timeframe from another era), it is the listening that lies at the foundation of how I help clients get from their current state to their desired future state. 

I cannot recall the last time I worked with an executive who worked exclusively within the hours of 9 to 5. Which most likely leads to some of the desires they share with me about what more they would like to do with their lives going into their future. One of the ways in which I help many leaders is to inspire them to master their own listening. That sometimes means listening to the internal voice we all have that can lead us in the direction that most calls to us. That is when we can hear that inner voice over all the noise that often permeates our environment in order to build a stronger relationship with ourselves. Enjoy!

Explore the Art of Listening.

The ART of Listening: Impact on Relationship Building

In a world filled with constant activity as well as increasing distractions and competing demands for our attention, the skill of truly listening has become increasingly more important.  Listening goes beyond merely hearing words; it involves actively processing and comprehending the message being conveyed. It requires attention, empathy, and genuine interest in understanding the speaker’s perspective. 

Listening with our whole self means being fully present and attentive; listening with our ears and including our hearts and minds. It means setting aside distractions, suspending judgment in exchange for curiosity, and genuinely investing ourselves in understanding the speaker’s message. This holistic approach fosters deeper connections, builds trust, and cultivates empathy, fostering stronger relationships both personally and professionally.

This month, we explore how each of our senses allows us to become effective listeners, the different styles of listening, why it’s so important to listen with our whole self, and how we can practice deeper listening skills with others and with ourselves

Learn how to Be Present.

Be Present

The ART of listening, as we define it, is the ability to bring one’s full attention to the speaker, and be present without interruptions or distractions. You engage in what is being shared and not being shared, identified through all your senses. It involves:

  1. Thinking: Actively processing and reflecting on the speaker’s words and their implications. In the Buddhist tradition, the sixth sense is aligned with thinking vs ESP.
  2. Seeing: Observing the speaker’s body language for additional insights and cues.
  3. Hearing: Paying attention to the words spoken, vocal inflections, word choice, and emotional tone.
  4. Smell:  When we experience life and others, we may be aware of scent associations that we often give little attention to, such as when I think of my grandparents with whom I associate with the smell of the farm or the musty basement beneath the farmhouse.
  5. Taste: Being attuned to any olfactory cues that may reveal additional layers of meaning. An example of this is when I think of my mother, I’m often reminded of a scent she wore or the lemon icebox pie she used to make for me on special occasions.
  6. Feeling: Sensing the speaker’s emotions and intentions through their expressions and the sensations they evoke in oneself.

Though all our senses play a role in deep listening, what we perceive visually and physically outweighs auditory input by more than 50%. Taking this into account, we draw on our ART model to remind us to Approach our listening with a sense of curiosity and openness. We Resolve whatever issue is at hand by giving the speaker our full attention with the intention of reaching a conclusion, determination, or settlement. The accomplishment or desired impact that follows is the release of Tension that results from an effective and accurately received message.   

As you will note, listening is so much more than just hearing someone’s words. It is also listening through our senses to what the speaker is conveying (intention). We listen in this way to the messages our mind, body, and spirit convey in service to our protection, growth, and development. Think of it as listening to your gut. Examples of this are what is learned through meditation and somatic work.  

Listening itself comes in many forms depending on your environment. Here are some common types of listening and when you might use them.

  1. Informational Listening focuses on understanding the message being conveyed. It’s used when you want to remember what is being said. You’ll use this type of listening in work training, self-paced learning, or when listening to a coach or mentor.
  2. Discriminative Listening involves distinguishing different sounds, voices, pitch, or quality. It’s the most basic form of listening and helps us understand the basic auditory information in communication. Think of this as reading between the lines, such as when someone says “Yes” and they clearly mean “No.”
  3. Selective or Biased Listening means that you hear what you want to hear. This can lead to misunderstandings as you fail to fully process the message of the speaker.
  4. Sympathetic Listening is where you focus on understanding the speaker’s feelings, emotions, and perspectives. It involves having and demonstrating compassion, empathy, and sensitivity towards the speaker’s experiences and concerns.
  5. Comprehensive Listening focuses on understanding the message being conveyed. It involves grasping the main ideas, details, and overall context of what is being communicated.
  6. Therapeutic Listening focuses on providing support and understanding to the speaker. It involves creating a safe space for the speaker to express their thoughts, feelings, and struggles without blame or judgment. 
  7. Critical Listening involves analyzing and evaluating the message being presented. It requires assessing the validity of the information, considering the speaker’s credibility, and examining the arguments for evidence provided.

All of these types of listening can have the ART model applied to them.

Learn how to Build Relationships through the ART of Listening.

Build Relationships

Effective communication lies at the heart of all human interaction. It serves as the cornerstone of our relationships, both personal and professional. Miscommunication, often stemming from a lack of attentive listening, can lead to a cascade of negative consequences.

When we fail to listen deeply to one another, misunderstandings abound. These misunderstandings can escalate into conflicts, erode trust, and ultimately lead to the breakdown of relationships. Whether in intimate partnerships, familial bonds, friendships, or workplace collaborations, the repercussions of miscommunication reverberate far and wide.

By honing the ART of listening, individuals can foster deeper connections and build stronger, more resilient relationships. When we listen with intention and attention, we signal to others that their words, feelings, and perspectives matter to us. This acknowledgment lays the foundation for trust and mutual respect.

Attentive listening equips us with the tools to navigate the intricate dynamics of social interaction with greater ease. It allows us to pick up on subtle cues, understand underlying emotions, and respond thoughtfully to the needs and concerns of others. In doing so, we forge bonds of empathy and understanding that transcends mere words.

In essence, the ART of listening is not just a skill; it’s a transformative practice that enriches every facet of our lives. By embracing this practice wholeheartedly, we can cultivate deeper connections, foster meaningful relationships, and navigate the complexities of human interaction with grace and compassion.

This also goes for the relationship you have with yourself. We suggest employing one of our learning tools we call, Engagement Query. It is an emotional intelligence-based tool used to create connection, enhance engagement, and deepen the influence you have with your audience during presentations, meetings, facilitations, and Interactions. It is also designed to help us develop questions we can ask ourselves to ensure we are truly present with ourselves. 

It accomplishes a similar outcome addressed in the phrase, “Should an emergency situation occur, you need to put your own oxygen mask on first, before attempting to help those around you.” While it isn’t necessary to wait for an extreme emergency situation to act, the sentiment of the phrase reminds us that we are more successful doing for others, what we’ve accomplished doing for ourselves.  

Listen more effectively by Shifting Your Focus.

Shift Your Focus

Improving listening skills is vital for better communication and stronger relationships. Here we explore the shift from old habits that hinder communication to new practices that foster deep understanding and connection:

Move Away FromMove Toward
Waiting to ShareFocus on What is Shared
Quick to ReactPause to Respond
DistractedBeing Present

Each one of these pairs represents a chance to improve your listening skills. Mindfulness meditation is at the core of each Move Toward recommendation. What is most challenging for many who consider the practice of meditation is that they find it too difficult or not something they are cut out to do. You are not alone. I could not meditate successfully when I first began. So what can be done?

Given there are so many obstacles that can get in the way of quieting the mind, there are ways to work through this often challenging form of centering. The first step that supported me and many like those of us who find it difficult at first is to ask for help before you assume you “can’t” do it. When I taught figure skating invariably students who believed something was too difficult would often respond with, “I can’t!” 

I would pull out a marker and write the word “Can” on the ice. Then I would underline the word and proceed to draw a vertical line down from the underlined word and add the letters, “ry” spelling “Try.” We both had a laugh and I would proceed with, “Let me show you how before you adopt the idea that something is impossible.” Asking for help is the first step.

Obstacles that often get in the way include stress, exhaustion, hunger, pain, and strong emotions. The very reason we meditate is to reduce stress that can lead to exhaustion and compound the issue. Therefore it comes with the practice of meditation itself that allows us to overcome these very stresses in our lives that lead us to meditate in the first place.

It can also help to better understand the benefits of meditation which include boosting the immune system. High stress levels for extended periods of time and experienced with frequency release the hormone in the body called cortisol. Lower levels of cortisol flowing through the body allow it to fight off infection. The added benefit is that less cortisol triggers reduce inflammation as well as chronic pain and the higher risk associated with heart disease. 

Through meditation, you can also lower your blood pressure. As an athlete, my training over time lowered my blood pressure which was a positive outcome among many because I developed improved focus and learned to maintain calmness over the many years I skated. When I would go for a physical, my doctors noted my lower blood pressure. This led to a calmer state of being that developed over time in skating. It served me well from a health perspective. 

There are alternatives to meditation. One significant alternative for me was practicing compulsory school figures; in those figure eights, we would draw on the ice with our blades as we continued round and round the circles until we achieved excellence in shape and tracing of the patterns. Although figure eights are no longer a compulsory part of the sport, other meditative practices such as walking in nature, gazing up at the clouds, and rhythmic drumming are a few options to consider.

What shocked me when I began meditating twenty years ago was discovering that all those years of figure skating proved meditative. I had no idea that I already knew how to meditate. I just hadn’t been told about it. When I discovered that, I was reminded of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz learning that she could go home all along after a whimsical journey through the land of Oz.

While I may not be a meditation teacher, I’ve learned from my teachers how to meditate and help others get started. So allow me to offer a sneak peek at what I’ve learned to do and perhaps you will want to try it yourself before you adopt the belief that you CAN’T!

Click here to meditate along with me.

Learn more ways to practice your listening skills in Try This.

Try This

To cultivate the art of listening in your daily interactions, try the following exercise:

The next time someone initiates a conversation without explicitly seeking your attention, pause and acknowledge the need to prepare to listen fully. Say something like, “Hold on just a moment so I can give you my full attention.” Cease any ongoing activities and, if feasible, adjust your body to make eye contact with the speaker. Take a deep breath, exhale fully, and pause for a beat before inviting the speaker to continue. Notice the impact of this intentional shift in your listening approach. Capture what you experience in your executive journal and look for opportunities to improve. 

Here’s an analogy that may help explain the passage of time in a conversation:

A beat in the theater is half a second. This measure of time is based on musical theory in that it takes 120 beats per minute to pass, the timing you’d most likely experience in a pop song. That may sound very technical and it is. This information also demonstrates the science of timing used to calculate the passage of time that will be most realistic in what is happening on stage when watching an actor perform their role.

Another helpful tool to consider when practicing your listening skills is:

Listen without focusing on what you want to say next. Instead, remain fully present with the person speaking and allow your full attention to truly grasp what the other person is and is not sharing. This usually requires us to hear the other person out. Then take the time (perhaps several beats) to weigh what you just heard. Then follow up with a guttural, pause, and/or a deep breath. Then when you respond, focus on what has been shared rather than moving forward with what you wish to add. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you will gain the other person’s attention, trust, and regard.

Case in Point: I recently was meeting with clergy to discuss ways and offerings the church could consider adopting to build greater community with its congregation. I suggested deep listening without an agenda because of the powerful impact on the speaker and the listener. My thoughts were appreciated and taken into serious consideration. During the conversation, another thought, not completely related to the conversation, occurred to me that felt important to add. Instead of breaking my own rule about listening without an agenda, I kept the comment to myself. Later in the day, the moderator who asked the question took a greater interest in my work and shared their wish to learn more. I deepened my relationship at that moment by keeping my additional thoughts to myself.

In that moment I got to see my approach in action and experience the power of keeping my mouth shut about what more I wanted to add. Now I have made a note about the additional insight that I will save until another time.

Lesson learned: I’ve given myself another reason to return to another conversation and cement in the mind of the clergy that I had more value to add…next time!

Keep reading to learn more about the Power of Listening.

Power of Listening

When I was developing my listening skills to earn the RLP® designation, I was struck by the power that my listening had on my partner. While I have been developing my listening and different types of listening over the years, I’ve continually learned so much about the nuance of listening that I’m amazed at how much more there is to learn. During my training, a story was shared with the group that really landed for me. It involved a husband and wife who attended a function during which the husband decided to just bring his acute listening skills to his interactions with other attendees. He shared how he moved around the room and focused on just his listening skills. He spoke little and simply listened and demonstrated his listening through body language and by being completely present with each person with whom he spoke.

When the couple prepared to leave the function, guests were so enamored with him that they were all excited about this incredible guest they met and wanted to meet again. He went with no agenda and only the goal of being a good listener. The key takeaway: Listen and take interest in others and they will remember and appreciate you long after you’ve gone.

By contrast, one must be discerning about self-protection when listening to others so as not to allow others to emotionally dump on them. Another account of a “good listener” I recently heard, was about a colleague of mine who allowed themselves to be fully present for the speaker who proceeded to dump their problems onto my colleague. By the end of the conversation, my colleague shared how worn out they were and how the speaker droned on to such a degree, that when my friend walked away, they felt as though a load of garbage had just been poured all over them. Not enough focus on self-protection was taken in that instance. 

For this reason, we must take care of ourselves so that we do not feel as though we become a dumpster for others to drop their woes upon us. In these situations, it is important to set boundaries for ourselves. Here are a few thoughts to consider when in a position to listen so as not to be overloaded with the challenges of others:

  1. Set limits on how much time you can afford to give to others. Let the speaker know up front how much time you have to give. Then be your word. When we do not hold to our boundaries we are telling the other person that they have the power to override our boundaries.
  2. When others have shared their boundaries with you, be sure to acknowledge that boundary before you cross it. You might say something along the lines of, “I just noted that our time is almost up. Are you in a position to allow this conversation to continue?” Should the person say yes, ask how much more time they have, and hold to it? Should they say no? Be sure not to continue. That other person will respect you more and will most likely not avoid speaking to you in the future.
  3. Set limits on what the topic will include and what it will not include. Avoid being the person who takes the other for granted and move into topics that were not agreed upon. This is a great opportunity to share an agreed-upon agenda and stick to it. I have found myself breaking this rule with my team. It doesn’t put you in the category of respecting those with whom you work.
  4. When you do flounder, be sure to apologize and make an effort not to repeat the offense. Particularly in business, the fastest way to lose the respect of others is to become a repeat offender. The rule of thumb here is that when you are out of integrity. Acknowledge it, and check to see whether there is anything you can do to get back in integrity with the other person. Then listen and commit to correct the error.

Learn how becoming a better listener can Differentiate Yourself from your peers.

Differentiate Yourself

Did you know that, on average, people spend approximately 45% of their communication time on listening? While we often think of communication as speaking or conveying our own thoughts, a significant portion of effective communication actually involves attentive listening. Whether it’s in personal conversations, professional meetings, or public settings, listening plays a crucial role in understanding others, building relationships, and exchanging information. This statistic highlights the importance of honing our listening skills to become better communicators and truly connect with those around us.

Countless studies highlight the importance of listening skills. As you ascend to higher levels of management and leadership in an organization, listening becomes even more important. It can lead to employee satisfaction, a reduction in misunderstandings, and empowerment. Take a hint from many of my colleagues who are HR professionals who identify active listening as the most critical leadership skill. 

Another Case in Point: I was working with an HR professional on leadership skills. Our engagement had come to an end sooner than I would have liked. Yet, I honored my client’s desire to end the coaching work we’d begun. Some weeks later, they circled back with a new problem and inquired about the cost of a spot coaching session.

Given that I offer coaching packages and prefer them over spot coaching engagements, I shared the going rate for such a one-off coaching hour. My fee was met with resistance and an unwillingness to move forward with the conversation. I suggested we discuss this further and was told the fee was not affordable. At first, I wanted to share the importance of negotiation which often gets in the way of reaching an amicable agreement. I wanted to bring this to their attention except, had I done so, I would not be honoring their wish not to pursue.

I was stuck between wanting to use the lack of negotiation as a leadership stumbling block and also wanting to honor the client’s wishes not to continue pursuing more coaching.

Lesson Learned: As a business person, we have to be forward-thinking enough to recognize this might happen in the future and step into these types of conversations with alternatives already in place. 

It’s time to Master Your Listening Skills.

Master Your Listening Skills

“Listening is a master skill for personal and professional greatness.” – Robin S. Sharma

Did you know that people can listen to up to 450 words per minute, Yet their thoughts race ahead at a staggering pace of about 1,000 to 3,000 words per minute? This striking contrast highlights the challenge of staying fully engaged and attentive during conversations. While our ears can take in information at a rapid rate, our minds often wander, processing thoughts and ideas at a much faster speed. This phenomenon underscores the importance of actively practicing focused listening techniques, such as mindfulness and active engagement, to bridge the gap between our listening and thinking speeds. By doing so, we can enhance our ability to understand, empathize, and connect with others on a deeper level.

One of the ways you can improve your listening skills is to connect with me to explore options that work with your learning style and needs. Book an introductory call with me and learn how you can distinguish yourself from your peers with amazing listening skills.