While driving home from a recent peer-to-peer session, I had time to reflect on the huge benefits of sharing where we’re at with like-minded people. As we all went our separate ways at the end of our day together, there was a clear sense that we had moved through many similar issues and we had new tools to meet the challenges we faced.
How had we managed to make such progress during our few hours together?
One obvious answer is that we provided a mirror for each other that let us see the blind spots in our thinking that we can’t see from the ‘inside’ perspective.
As I reflected on the various case studies, I noticed how we got to a place where something magical happened for all of us. Something so simple and so powerful you wonder why we don’t devote far more time in schools, families, workplaces, communities, etc. to nourishing and nurturing it.
I’m talking here about being willing to listen to others – without the compulsion to ‘fix’ them, ‘save’ them or ‘sort them out’.
Here are some of the huge benefits of being listened to by others: we feel seen and heard, and acknowledged for who we are and where we are right now.
There are also enormous benefits of actively listening. When we fully listen to others we are guided to the right questions to ask that will give them the opportunity to discover their own ability to find the best solutions.
Here’s when we humans are seriously challenged, when we get in our own way, when we slip into ‘authority’ mode and when we can sabotage the great benefits of peer-to-peer coaching.
We have unlearned how to listen deeply to each other.
Instead of giving our full and undivided attention to what the other person is saying, far too often we feel compelled to dole out unsolicited advice. And the message we send out to someone with our ‘advice’ – however well-intended – is that we don’t think they are capable of solving their own problems.
So, how do we listen deeply to each other instead of rushing to give advice?
Knowing what listening is NOT is a good pace to start and Simon Sinek’s quote will help do just that: “There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak.”
As someone who spent decades teaching and lecturing, in other words, constantly giving out advice, it took my quite some time to re-cultivate my listening skills and abandon the podium position.
Here are 3 simple strategies I’ve learned to improve the quality of my conversations (insider tip – it’s all about practice).
- Let’s start with our human anatomy. We have TWO ears and ONE mouth, i.e. remind yourself of that ratio next time you want to speak!
- Know the difference and practise the difference between ‘listening’ and ‘hearing’. ‘Hearing’ refers to the sounds that automatically come to us. While ‘listening’ requires us to pay full attention to what is being said and how it is being said, i.e. we must become active listeners for not just the words, but also the body language, tone of voice, silences, etc.
- Resist all temptations to interrupt – no matter how much you believe you know what needs to be said, or not said. You actually don’t know! Instead, listen and allow the question to surface that could direct the person to their solution and ask your question after they have finished speaking.
By listening and asking the ‘right’ question we are helping the other get a clearer picture of what they need to do and how they can implement the changes they are ready to make.
Deep, active listening. That’s how our conversations can become truly magical experiences!