Do you want to be a better listener? Yes, you can learn to listen! Learn tactical strategies to help you become a better listener, reasons why listening is so difficult, and the 3 levels of listening.

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CONTENTS

  • Summary
  • Resources
  • Transcript

 


SUMMARY

WHY LISTENING is so DIFFICULT

  • We’re myopic – We’re wired to focus on ourselves.  Our favourite topic is anything to do with “me,” and our favourite word is our own name
  • We’re distracted – by our phones, by everything going on around us
  • We’re smart! – We get bored easily and our minds wander

Julian Treasure listening quote - Talk About Talk

3 LEVELS OF LISTENING

  1. Passive Listening
    • This is our default. Most of us are here most of the time!
    • This is when we pretend to listen. We’re not interrupting, we’re waiting our turn.
    • This is simple downloading, where we listen for what we already know.

Stephen Covey listening quote - Talk About Talk

  1. Active Listening
    • listening with focused intent and empathy
    • focusing on the other person….
  1. Collaborative Listening
    • The ultimate stage of listening is collaborative and synergistic.
    • This is listening with focused intent, empathy, and then collaborating and learning. Consider others’ input as a key ingredient for your goal!

Alan Alda listening quote - Talk About Talk

3 STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE OUR LISTENING

  1. FOCUS
    • Focus on the other personnot on yourself, not on what you’re going to say. 
      • Beyond their words! Body language too. Their facial expression, their posture.  Their eyes.
    • Focus on your goal. What are you trying to accomplish? This is about being mindful.
      • Avoid distractions and put away your phone.  Make it easy for yourself to focus.  No multi-tasking.  It’s about mono-tasking.
      • Focus on learning… not on sharing or advising. Your goal is to acquire information, not share information!
    • Focus on the 3 levels of listeningPassive, Active, and Collaborative

questions quote - Tim Ferriss - Talk About Talk

2.    ASK Qs

  • Ask lots of questions 
    • Ask as many questions as you can.
    • Absorb what the other person is telling you, as opposed to solving or resolving.  
  • Ask quality questions 
    • Ask open-ended Avoid yes/no Qs. 
    • Encourage others to tell you story (“tell me about…”)
    • Ask Qs that include the other person’s words. If someone says, “This is so difficult,” you can ask, “Difficult?” If someone says, “I felt so embarrassed,” you can ask, “You felt so embarrassed?” 

Epictetus listening quote - Talk About Talk

3.    TRACK THE RATIO

  • Track the ratio of you talking vs. the other person talking. Two reasons to track the ratio:
    • LEARNING – The more you listen, the more you learn
    • LIKING – The more you listen, the more they’ll like you!
  • This might be easier for Introverts!
  • This is a great opportunity for you to demonstrate your leadership skills. Track not just your ratio, but the ratio of everyone else in the room. If someone hasn’t spoken, encourage them to speak up. Ask them an open-ended question, and then (as my friend Jill Nykoliation suggests), HOLD SPACE for them to talk.
  • Embrace the silence. Let others fill the silence. Oftentimes, you’ll learn the most from someone following a moment of silence.  As they say: “Silence is golden.”

Doug Larson listening quote - Talk About Talk

 


RESOURCES

LISTENING Podcast Episodes

Dr. Andrea Wojnicki & Talk About Talk

 


TRANSCRIPT

SHHHH…. Quiet.  DO you hear that? 

It occurred to me that for this episode in particular there’s some chance I’ll be preaching to the choir.

The CHOIR here is YOU.  You podcast listeners.  LISTENERS. Yep, we’re focusing – in this episode – on our listening skills.

Here’s an interesting insight. Some experts have noted that as a society, our listening skills are deteriorating. That’s kind of sad, isn’t it? How’s this possible? Well, more and more of us are spending our time watching videos. We are a visually oriented society.

OK, but I certainly haven’t lost hope for us.  Why?  Well,

  1. Listening skills is absolutely one of the most common topic requests I get for coaching and workshops. Ambitious executives across industries are focusing on improving their listening skills.
  2. Podcast listenership continues to grow. Yes, LISTENERSHIP is up.  I love that word – listenership.
  • Here’s the good news for you, dear podcast listener – If the experts are right and as a society our listening skills are deteriorating, then there may be a HUGE opportunity for some of us to truly stand out, based on our listening skills.

LET’S DO THIS!

Greetings and welcome to Talk About Talk. I’m your communication coach, Dr. Andrea Wojnicki (please call me Andrea!).

 

Are you an ambitious executive with a growth mindset, looking to advance your career?  Well, you’re in the right place. 

 

At Talk About Talk, we focus on communication-skills-topics like personal branding, confidence, networking, and yes, listening. This is the critically important stuff they don’t teach you in school. It’s what takes you from a B+ to an A+ in whatever it is you do.  And if you check out the TalkAboutTalk.com website, you’ll find online corporate training, 1-on-1 coaching with me, the archive of this bi-weekly podcast, and the free weekly communication-skills newsletter. I really hope you’ll go to the website and sign up for the free weekly communication skills training newsletter. But you can choose what works for you!

 

Welcome to Talk About Talk episode number 88 – The Power of Listening. LISTENING SKILLS are, in my opinion, the #1 communication superpower…

If you’re not listening, it’s not communication. It’s just a monologue! 

 

As TEDTalk listening expert Julian Treasure says, “Every human needs to listen consciously in order to live fully.”

 

We could all use a primer on IMPROVING OUR LISTENING SKILLS. Whether you’re in an online meeting, engaging in small talk, or sitting around the dinner table.  Active listening, listening with intent, can make all the difference! 

 

In this episode, you’ll learn the 3 levels of listening, a listening hierarchy if you will, plus specific strategies and actionable tactics to help you elevate your listening. 

 

Let’s get into this! As always, you don’t need to take notes, because I do that for you. I everything for you at the end of the episode. And you can always access the printable episode shownotes on the talkabouttalk.com website. So, while you’re listening, you can just keep doing whatever you’re doing – driving or walking or housework, or whatever. You don’t have to take notes because I do that for you.

 

WHY ITS IMPORTANT – BUT SO DIFFICULT

 

Let me start with this. When most of us think about communication, we think about talking (not listening), right?  But here’s the thing, if you’re not listening, it’s just a monologue.

 

If you listen to podcasts, then at some level, you get that listening requires focus and it’s an effective way to learn.

 

But listening is not easy!

As playwright George Bernard Shaw says,

  • We’re wired to focus on ourselves.  Our favourite topic is anything to do with “me,” and our favourite word is our own name
  • We’re distracted. …
  • We’re smart!…

 

Good news –  Listening can be learned.

It helps with understanding the types or levels of listening.

3 Levels of Listening

You can think in terms of a hierarchy. There are 3 Levels of listening. Four really. But we won’t include level zero, which is when you’re totally disengaged. Not listening at all. being rude. 

 

  • Passive Listening– This is our default. Pretending to listen (not interrupting, waiting our turn). where we listen for what we already know. Most of us are here most of the time!

 

  • Active Listening– listening with focused intent and empathy, focusing on the other person….

 

  • Collaborative Listening– the ultimate stage of listening is listening with focused intent, empathy, and then collaborating and learning. Consider the others’ input as a key ingredient for your goal! This is “collaborative dialogue”. If you’ve ever taken an improv class, they talk about YES AND…. Its synergistic. Creating something

 

So how do we elevate our listening to the level of COLLABORATIVE LISTENING?

 

I offer you three main strategies: Focus, Ask Qs, Track the ratio

Take you through a few ideas for each of these tactics.  Maybe choose 1-2 that will work best for you.

 

3 Strategies to improve your listening

1.FOCUS – But focus on what? Focus on the other person. Focus on your goal and focus on the three levels of listening.

****Focus on the other person

  • …not on yourself, not on what you’re going to say. 
  • Beyond their words! Body language too.  Their facial expression, their posture.  Their eyes.

Focus on your goal. What are you trying to accomplish?  This is about being MINDFUL.

  • Avoid distractions and put away your phone.  Make it easy for yourself to focus.  No multi-tasking.  It’s about MONOtasking.
  • learning… not on sharing or advising. Your goal is to acquire information, not share information!

Focus on the 3 levels of listening

  1. Passive
  2. Active Listening – listening with focused intent and empathy
  3. CollaborativeListening – the ultimate stage of listening: learning.

2.GREAT LISTENERS ASK Qs

Do you know who Tim Ferriss is? 

·      Amongst other things, Tim Ferriss is a productivity guru, and author and a successful podcaster.  He wrote the 4-hour work week.  Yah, that Tim Ferriss.  Do you know that he says?…

ask lots of questions 

  • Ask as manyquestions as you can.
  • Absorb what the other person is telling you, as opposed to solving or resolving.  I learned this one from Legal veteran Norm Bacal. Challenge yourself to absorb, not solve or resolve.  Yah, I know that is hard for many of us, myself included.  But just absorb.  And you can do so by asking Qs.
  • Of course, you will need to demonstrate expertise and offer advice to your clients and even to your colleagues. But you can knock it outta the park when you first listen to your client.

ask great questions 

  • Most obvious advice here is almost a cliché. Ask open-ended Avoid yes/no Qs. 
    • Try Qs that start with “why” or “how.”
    • You could also try asking people to share stories or details. If you’re following up with someone about a meeting, instead of “did the meeting go well?,” (Uh-uh!) you could ask, “Tell me about the meeting, how did go?” You’re implicitly asking for a story.
    • So what are some great Qs to ask?  Well, you could start with “Tell me about” or “Tell me more…” Or you could ask what my friend Norm Bacal, the legal veteran I mentioned earlier, you could ask the Q he asks clients:What keeps you up at night?” That’s a fantastic Q.  What keeps YOU up at night?
  • Another thing you could do it ask Qs that include the other person’s words. Great is a great tactic I learned at HBS…
    • Repeat the other person’s words back to them. If someone says, “This is so difficult,” you can ask, “Difficult?” If someone says, “I felt so embarrassed,” you can ask, “You felt so embarrassed?”
    • This technique demonstrates you are listening and can help you learn more. It takes practice, band it might feel a bit awkward when you start. But it’s effective! 

3.Effective Listeners TRACK THE RATIO

  • Track the ratio of you talking vs. the other person talking.
  • As Epictetus, the Greek Philosopher said, “…”  That’s the ratio I’m talking about here.

Two reasons to track the ratio of you talking versus the other person talking:

  • LEARNING – The more they talk… (critical in a client context!)
  • LIKING – The more they talk
  • By the way, I have to highlight Introverts here. In podcast episode # 82, we went into detail about the differences between introverts and extroverts. Sometimes introverts get a bad name. But Introverts may be better listeners. They’re quieter.  Typically, they’re listening, not talking.  Their ratio of talking versus listening may be something we should all aspire to.  While they’re listening, they’re learning more, and they might even be making us like them more.

Two things to consider in terms of tracking the ratio of listening versus talking.

  • Track not just your ratio, but the ratio of everyone else in the room. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to demonstrate your leadership skills.  Consider everyone’s relative of airtime.  If someone hasn’t spoken, encourage them to speak up.  Ask them an open-ended question, and then as my friend Jill Nykoliation suggests, HOLD SPACE for them to talk.
  • EMBRACE THE SILENCE – don’t race to fill the silence. Oftentimes, you’ll learn the most from someone following a moment of silence.  Look the person in the eye and nod. Don’t say a word. Sometimes the right word is NO WORDS. As they say: “Silence is golden.”

So that’s Track the ratio.  And that’s the three strategies I offer to help you elevate your listening.  Its FOCUS, ASK Qs and TRACK THE RATIO.

 

Got it?

 

SUMMARY – If you’re still listening, I have some homework for you. In every interaction you have, challenge yourself to LISTEN.  Not just passively waiting your turn to talk.  Not even just actively listening with intent and purpose.  But by listening Collaboratively.  Do this by:

  1. ASKING Qs
  2. FOCUSING
  3. TRACKING THE RATIO

 

Let me know how it goes!

 

OK that’s it.  Again, you can find the shownotes on the talkabouttalk.com website. Just click on the PODCAST tab and you’ll find it there.

 

And while you’re there, I really hope you’ll sign up for the Talk About Talk newsletter! This is your chance to get free communication skills coaching from me every week in a simple to digest weekly email. Just go to talk abouttalk.com to sign up or email me directly and I’ll add you to the list. You can email me anytime at [email protected].

 

THANKS for LISTENING.  I mean it.  Thanks for listening and Talk soon!

 

 

 

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