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Beyond Active Listening

Listening take practice and practice

Strive for the level of listening beyond Active Listening

There are five levels of listening.

Passive – Marginal – Evaluative – Active Listening and Generous.

Most people strive for Active Listening which is listening for the emotions and feelings of the speaker which is a great place to start. Why not go farther and strive for Generous Listening? What do you think Generous Listening means? When you think about those two words together, what comes to mind? Generous is showing the readiness to give more of something, like attention or time, than is strictly necessary or expected. It is the act of showing kindness towards others. When you put "generous" with listening, this is the art of showing kindness through your listening.

How to Practice Generous Listening:

Listening is a skill. There's really no magic involved - just a willingness to receive what another person is saying. (And for some… a willingness to be uncomfortable to do listening and not talking…) This is harder than it sounds! But once you can receive, you open yourself up to a lot more than simply words - you have insight into the way another person perceives the world.

Wait, and then wait some more. Listening isn't waiting for the person to stop talking so you can chime in. Wait twice as long as you feel is comfortable for them to speak and give them ample space to think. Put your attention on the other person. Ignore your little voice. Honor the other person with your attention. Resist telling your story. You risk upstaging them. Wait until they ask for your input before offering your story, and even then, be brief. Keep the emphasis on them, don't take over the conversation: “That’s nothing! Let me tell you about….” "That reminds me of the time that I..." Ask them questions based on what is important to them (not you.) It shows you're engaged and brings clarity to their situation. Seek first to understand, then be understood. Ask questions about what THEY are saying. Be honest. Tell them if you're lost or don't understand. They'll appreciate the interruption instead of losing you. (Also, don’t say that you don’t understand something just to appear that you are listening (when you really are not.) Put yourself in their shoes. Don't criticize or give advice, just see it all from their point of view. Resist trying to fix things. Release judgment. Most people don’t want you to do anything. They just want to be heard. (They also are not looking for your judgment.) Let go of both “good and bad” assessments. People don’t like to be judged. Under-react. (Just let it be there.) Don't get nit-picky, instead be tolerant and be patient. Don't correct the other person or make them “wrong” for their actions, decisions, or beliefs. Don't act like you've heard it all before. Even if you have-- their story is unique and has something to teach you. You will come out having an increased understanding of who they are. Be on their side. Listen for the “gold” in what they are saying. Be aware of your verbal messages. Using short promoting phrases to let them know you're there can be a distraction if the phrases are done at inappropriate times or too frequently. "Um," "a-ha," "yes," "I know what you mean". Choose them wisely, insert them carefully and don't just repeat them over and over. People will know whether you are listening to them or not by your non-verbal clues and the “connection.” That you have established. Be aware of non-verbal messages. A smile or frown is releasing judgment. Nodding the head too much or too much motion of any kind disturbs the process and effectiveness of listening. Simply be aware of the non-verbal messages that you are giving and keep them to a minimum. Remember – most habitual verbal messages (uh-huh) and non-verbal messages (nodding the head) have been the way that we have covered up the reality that we are NOT listening in the past. We have achieved mastery in faking that we are paying attention to someone while they are talking.

Use humor and laugh. Don't be scared to show true emotion (if it is true.) Laugh with them or the situation if you truly find it funny. Reflect. Periodically summarize what they've said. This will clarify, keep you both on track and let them know you've understood. They'll also be able to hear what they've said and take it deeper. Decide to give. Make the choice that this conversation is about them talking and about you listening. Don't expect to get your point across or to teach them something; ---that will come with time.

Be courageous. Recognize that for most people – listening (and not talking) is outside our comfort zone. Let the discomfort be there (and do it anyway.) The more you practice the art (skill) of listening the easier it will become. Remember courage is the willingness to be uncomfortable for the benefit of experiencing or receiving something greater on the other side.

There is so very little listening that occurs today. Listening is a wonderful gift that you can give to another.

Interested in learning more? Check out the course description for our program on Generous Listening.

Course Outline_Generous Listening
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