Listening is difficult for some good reasons. When we are engaged in conversations, two processes are happening in parallel – processing our thoughts, based on what we are hearing and formulating what to say in response. These two processes interfere with our presence and fully listening to what is being said.
The second reason is that the speed of speaking is significantly lower than the speed of thoughts. What that means is that our thoughts speeds past the conversation into solutions, using the so called “spare thinking time” instead of listening.
There are few strategies to improve your listening
- Ignore the need to know the details – Imagine that a co-worker comes to you with frustrations with a specific project. You can begin to ask about the details like: What’s the project? What is the specific problem? Who is involved? etc, rather than focussing on the person to understand how this is impacting them, what alternatives are available etc
- Listen for the meaning – ask yourself – why is the speaker telling me this? What’s the subtext – what are the thoughts going on as result of which he/she is saying what you are hearing. Engage your curiosity
- Suspend judgement – as explained earlier we have a parallel though process going on whenever we engage in a conversation. Because the speed of thought is faster, it’s easy to conjure up stories based on what we are hearing and our personal experiences and background. Be aware of this and make attempts to not jump into conclussions and judgement. Instead, you want to ask questions.