Radical Listening

Earlier this week, I shared this quote at the end of my Yoga class from Ernest Hemingway, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people don’t listen.”

I’ve written before about listening. I think it’s overlooked as a spiritual discipline. It’s definitely overlooked as a relationship builder and as a learning tool.

So, I look for ideas about listening wherever I can find them. Here, Taylor Jacobson, a career coach, wrote on the Website Goodlife Zen (go figure for the title) about Radical Listening.

Here are his seven techniques. These are not new to me, but it’s always good to see things in a new way, or on a new list. I have used all of these, and they work. Try some out today and visit the Website for his complete descriptions.

1. Take notes.

Active listening techniques like nodding, eye contact and affirming sounds are great, but we’re good at faking these. Taking notes is harder because it requires us to synthesize. This process gets us present and aids the learning process, even if we never look at our notes.

2. Paraphrase.

Attention inevitably slips. A great technique to combat a lapse is to paraphrase. “I’m not sure I got that exactly. Did you mean … ?” When you’re committed to listening, try to resist the temptation to contribute your own thoughts, and paraphrase instead. You’ll find yourself listening more closely, if only to avoid looking foolish.

3. Ask for repetition.

If you’re feeling extra courageous, an act of great respect and mindfulness is to simply acknowledge when an attention lapse happens. Asking for repetition can act as a bridge to greater attention, since noticing that your attention has lapsed is an act of presence in itself.

4. Ask probing questions.

One of the oldest tricks in the book, and still one of the best. You can trick yourself into listening more closely by watching for opportunities to probe. Just remember, don’t fake it – the best questions are genuine ones.

5. Validate.

Phrases like “thank you for saying that …”, “I like what you said about ….” and “That makes sense because …” force you to pay attention and also demonstrate a high level of engagement.

6. Provide buffer time.

Your ability to listen depends to some extent on your environment. One of the simplest ways you can promote a positive listening environment is to allow plenty of buffer time. This allows you to put your phone away and direct all of your attention to the person and matters at hand.

7. Go slow, pause and breathe.

Remember that for every word you choose not to speak, you create another opportunity to listen. Pick your spots to speak more carefully and learn to say less by going slowly, pausing and breathing.

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