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  • Catherine Hodgson


Anyone can sit and hear someone talk about their business, their life, their dreams, their problems or their goals. However, are you really hearing what the other person is saying? Are you truly listening? Being able to listen is a skill that does not come naturally to some people. In fact, most of us don’t even realize that we are not good listeners. I’m still trying to learn every day to be a better listener and my husband and kids remind me on a daily basis!

How do we become better listeners?

To truly listen is to be completely present. Yes, I know it’s that mindfulness word again, but it’s true – just ask your significant other! How many times have you been at a cocktail party and the person you are talking to is looking over your shoulder to see whom they are going to talk to next? How does that make you feel? To give someone your undivided attention is to show that person your utmost respect – you are giving them a beautiful gift of your attention.

It’s not about listening to ask the next question. It’s not about listening while waiting to speak so you can quickly also share your experience, without considering if it’s relevant or not. It’s not about listening and then finishing the other person’s sentence for them because you think you know what they are going to say. It’s not about listening with the focus on yourself and not on the person you are listening to. Steven Covey said “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.” Is that what you do too? Putting listening into practice

I was in the kitchen one evening, preparing dinner, when my daughter came to me crying that she had just had a big argument with her boyfriend. My first reaction would have been to give her a hug and then tell her exactly what she should say or do. However, that day I had just attended a Nancy Kline workshop on Thinking and Listening skills. I therefore changed my default behaviour and decided to test what I had just learnt from Nancy that day. I sat down on the couch, faced her, looked into her eyes and asked my daughter to tell me all about it, giving her my undivided attention. When she finished, I gently said, "Tell me more" and out came a whole lot more! After repeating that same sentence a few times, not saying anything in-between except nodding and listening, my daughter came up with her own solution on what to do. She drove to the boyfriend's house to go and talk to him in person. An hour or so later she was home and came straight back into the kitchen, where she gave me a big hug and said "Mom, thank you for just listening to me". I had not come up with any solutions and not told her what to do - she did not need that. All I did was give her my utmost attention.

Listening is a completely selfless experience.

It’s not about you. It’s not your story. It’s removing your feelings, criticisms, prejudices, judgments, experiences and thoughts from the table – for now. It’s all about putting the focus and spotlight on the other person. That’s difficult as we usually like the spotlight on ourselves. Listening without intent, listening to understand what the other person is really trying to say, listening to what they are not saying – looking at body language, tone and incongruences. That is truly listening.

Silence does not need to be filled.

A couple of months ago I met my mentor for our regular meeting. After we had said hello and sat down, without me saying a word, he had picked up that I was stressed and tense. Once he had acknowledged his feeling about me, he sat in silence and waited for me to speak. The silence did not need to be filled. I was able to gather my thoughts without fear of being interrupted and be completely open in our subsequent conversation. He opened the door and then allowed me to speak by giving me his undivided attention. Giving your mentee your undivided attention, without interruption, allows them to think more deeply, to open up more confidently and expose more than they would have otherwise exposed. A mentor needs to remove his own ego to be fully open to listen to his mentee. Only once the listening is done can the questioning begin.

Is anybody listening?

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