Master conscious listening

Earlier this week I received a LinkedIn message from a girl that used to work with me, thanking me for sharing my “sit on your hands” mindfulness technique to listen more and interrupt less in meetings.

The simple practice was shared with me by a leadership trainer back in the late 90’s (I sound really old) and I have regularly used it and shared it since.

Heather’s note combined with the facilitation of several communication workshops over the last week has inspired me to share some thoughts and ideas on listening this week, particularly in the context of how well we listen.

So, what is listening?
Listening, by definition, is the process of actively paying attention to and interpreting spoken, or nonverbal messages received from others. It involves using your senses to perceive sounds, gestures, facial expressions, and body language, as well as cognitive processes to understand the meaning and intent behind the message being communicated.

I believe effective listening requires concentration, focus, and an open-minded attitude to fully comprehend the message being conveyed and is the quickest and most successful way for you to build trust and connection with others.

Not only does listening help create a positive, engaged, and productive environment for you and your people, it also has a transformative effect on your emotional intelligence, enabling you to expand your self-awareness, empathy and attunement toward others emotions and feelings.

Yet many of us are not so great at listening, especially when it comes to perceiving another’s emotional state because we are often distracted or not fully present in the moment.

In my programs I talk about Five levels of listening:

  • Ignoring
  • Pretending
  • Selecting
  • Being intentional
  • Being empathetic

With the last two stages being pertinent to conscious listening.

I also share the Five listening filters that stop us from fully paying attention and really processing and understanding what others are saying:

  • Fixing
  • Judging
  • Correcting
  • Defending
  • Personalising

Here is a little more about the filters:

Fixing: The fixing filter is a listening filter in which we try to solve the other person’s problem or provide a solution to their issue, rather than simply listening and empathising with them. When we are using the fixing filter, we may be more focused on finding a solution than on truly understanding the other person’s experience or emotions.

Judging: The judging filter is a listening filter in which we make assumptions or judgments about the other person or their message, rather than listening with an open mind and heart. When we are using the judging filter, we may be more focused on our own biases or preconceptions than on truly understanding the other person’s perspective.

Correcting: The correcting filter is a listening filter in which we feel the need to correct the other person’s statements or opinions, rather than simply listening and acknowledging their perspective. When we are using the correcting filter, we may be more focused on proving the other person wrong than on truly understanding their point of view.

Defending: The defending filter is a listening filter in which we feel the need to protect ourselves from criticism or attack. When we are using the defending filter, we may feel defensive or closed off to what the other person is saying and may be more focused on protecting ourselves than on truly understanding the other person’s perspective.

Personalising: The personalising filter is a listening filter in which we make the conversation about ourselves, rather than truly listening and empathising with the other person. When we are using the personalising filter, we may be more focused on how the conversation affects us personally, rather than on understanding the other person’s perspective.

Each and every one of us will engage in these filters, for various reasons, some of which include wanting to be helpful.

The key to conscious listening, however, is to be aware of these filters and do your best not to engage with them – This is where the sitting on your hand’s technique comes in!

When you deliberately take the time to stop and think about the level of listening you want to bring to a conversation or meeting – you are being intentional. Your intentions further expand when you apply a physical anchor or reminder like sitting on your hands or holding onto a finger. This physical reminder brings you into the present moment and provides you with a conscious way to really listen and deeply understand what the other person is saying.

This type of listening is means we are being empathetic and is a counteraction to the filters we very often use.

So where is your listening at?
What Filters do you regularly engage in?

Conscious listening is a skill that requires patience, practice, and commitment, but it doesn’t necessarily have to take up a lot of your time to implement.

If you wish to be a leader, parent or influencer that makes a difference to others, then give these conscious listening principles a go – They will be worth your while!