Blessed are the Meek by Pastor Charlie Whitlow
Resources and Exercises to Improve Your Listening

The Art of Listening



As a coach who is passionate about my profession, I am constantly honing my listening skills to more deeply understand my clients.  

Below are my notes and takeaways from session #1 of a listening class I started this week.

What is listening?  Making meaning from sound.  A mental process of extraction to get understanding.  

Why is it important?  Listening is our access to understanding.  Conscious listening creates understanding and understanding creates deeper connections with others.  

What gets in the way of good listening?

1.  Multi-tasking.  Presence precedes listening.  If you're multi-tasking by checking your phone while trying to have a conversation, you're not being fully present.  If you're not being fully present, you won't be able to listen effectively.  If you want to listen well, give someone your focused undivided attention.

2.  Distractions.  Similar to #1 but these can also be our internal thoughts such as personal worries or thinking about our "to do" list while in conversation.  The solution is to put our attention outwardly to the person in front of us, paying attention to the tone of their voice, their pitch, their pacing, the content, their emotions, values etc. instead of inwardly to the internal dialog of our minds.  

3. Our filters.  They tell us what we're paying attention to.  For example, when someone starts talking and you think you know what they're is going to say before they say it, you stop listening.  We can't assume we know what is going to be offered or we don't hear what is going to be said.  Another type of filter is our intention.  For example, if we intend to listen to our spouse as it's the very first time we're listening to them, how would that intention change the way we listen to them?

4.  We're becoming impatient.  We don't want oratory anymore.  We want sound bites.  The art of conversation is being replaced by personal broadcasting such as that on social media.  We need to have patience and gain an appreciation for the art of conversation.    

5.  We're becoming desensitized.  Our media has to scream at us with headlines in order to get our attention and it means it's harder for us to pay attention to the quiet, the subtle, the understated.  Start paying attention to the understated and discover something new.  

Way to improve conscious listening?

  1. Silence- Spent just 3 minutes a day in silence to reset your ears and recalibrate.  
  2. The mixer- Even if in a very noisy place, listen for how many channels of sound you can hear. For example in nature, how many birds can you hear?
  3. Savoring- It's about enjoying mundane sounds like traffic or water flowing.  Its the hidden choir that's around us all the time.
  4. Listening positions.  Move your listening position to what you're listening to:  Active/Passive,  Reductive/Expansive, Critical/Empathetic
  5. Acronym- RASA which is the sanskrit word for juice or essence.  Receive- pay attention to the person.  Appreciate- making little noises like oh, ok, etc. to let someone know you're tracking with them.  Summarize- the word "so".... is important in communication.  Ask- ask questions afterwards.
  6. Listen with your whole being.  Listening is not just using your ears.  Listening with your eyes, ears, heart, and intuition are all combined for deeper listening.   
  7. Remove distractions both internally and externally so you can be fully present to the person in front of you.  

Many of the points on listening here came from this TED talk by Julian Treasure:  5 Ways to Listen Better

Happy listening!  


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