Tanya Long 2016/09/01

Ever hear someone saying “He just wasn’t listening! He didn’t hear what I was saying!” ?

In management training programmes they talk about “active listening” and provide one with strategies on how to actively listen when someone is talking.

Today though, I want to share with you a different concept of “listening”.  This applies to a “listening” that you have with others.

Let me explain.  When we start off a conversation with someone, we go into that conversation with preconceived ideas about that person “He is clever”, “He is a non-performer”, “He never does what he says he would”.  These are thoughts that are driven by our subconscious, based upon past experiences and thoughts about the person.  This is what we can describe as “our listening” for a person.

Our subconscious takes over and without realising it, we start to manipulate our conversations and what we hear, to align to “our listening”. What also happens is that when in conversation with that person, we subconsciously look out to prove “our listening” right… Ever heard the saying that “What you think will be, will be” ?

Do you know that we drop out of conversations every twelve to eighteen seconds to process what people are saying?  That in this time we think we remember what others say, but actually we remember what we think about what others say.  More commonly known as a conversational blindspot….

A perfect example in the workplace is when you have someone working for you who is not performing, and you are wanting to put in place a Performance Improvement Plan.  You go to HR and the suggestions that are given to you is; to go into the session with the context/mindset that the person will succeed in the process and to tell them that this is a positive intervention. Not a negative one… as the person may intuitively pick up when you are not genuine in your intention.

Picture the scene now:  you go into the session feeling that this is the last straw and you are not convinced that the person is going to be able to improve their performance.  The person comes into the session thinking that none of this is their fault, and that you are only running this because it is an HR requirement and that you really just want to ask them to leave, that you are not genuine in your intent….Can you see how from the above scenario both individuals have a clearly defined “listening” for what is going to come next, even before you both have said your first word?

loserRegardless of what is said, the other person’s ability to actually hear what you are saying is impacted by their “listening”. Both parties will be looking out for the words, to prove their “listening” right.  And subconsciously our tone and body language will reflect our thinking.

So what’s a person to do?

Well firstly,  Check your old “listening” in at the door… what I mean  by that is, check your own listening before you start.  Be honest.  Then decide what is the new “listening” and context, you want to have when communicate with the person and commit to that.

The next step is to be aware of what the other persons “listening” may be, and to think of a way to communicate with them at the start of the conversation to ‘quell’ their fears.  This is extremely key in your communication process.  Knowing that if you don’t address this first, the questions or concerns will be at the top of the persons mind and will be taking up space, essentially they will not hear the majority of the things that you are saying…

Like everything, this takes practice… and the greater your awareness the greater your ability will become to Check your listening in at the door….