Part 1: Listening To Individuals
Listening is such an important skill in leadership of the self and others: we have to listen at so many different levels. We constantly have to make sure we are listening to individuals, but we also must keep our ear on the ground, ensuring that we know what the mood is in our department, organization, team, group of friends... Finally, we constantly have to listen to ourselves, ensuring we are still in tune with our core values, that we are not bring too self-absorbed, or that our energy is going in the right direction.
I have noticed in myself that I don't always listen very well. I might nod and smile but if asked to repeat what the person says... well, I can't always do it. It's something I personally want to work on and so, I am writing this for me... and for you!
As leaders of ourselves and others, listening with purpose is one of the keys to truly ensuring we are not using our own biases and filters to assign meaning to what an individual says. Listening with purpose means being silent when others speak, refraining from interrupting, offering our own perspective or opinion or sharing a similar experience, and it also means listening with an intention. What do you hear when you really want to know what the other person is saying? Can you hear pride in their achievement? Stress? Fear? Confusion? Excitement?
As soon as you identify this, you can start listening for potential. What this means is how will you help this person? Can you listen for what they are prepared to do? If they are talking about a problem, what are the strengths this person has that you can invite them to use to solve this situation? If they are talking about something they are proud of or excited about, what can you praise them on and encourage them to continue with while perhaps challenging them a little?
Your new way for 2018
Listen with purpose: when someone approaches you to talk about something, tell yourself clearly that you are listening to truly hear what the person is saying. Once they have finished, try to clarify, in as few words as possible, and in your own words what the person said to ensure you truly heard what they said. Try to capture they essence of what they said. They will feel more relaxed for having been listened to and the conversation will be grounded in the trust that what is being said is valued. Once that is done, talk about the potential you heard.
For example if someone is venting about a colleague or a friend, reassure the person that you understand by clarifying what they said very briefly: "So, what I hear is that you are frustrated." Do not dwell on the problem, but rather, on the emotion or general feeling. The person will confirm you understand and if you got it wrong, the person will most probably clarify it again for you. You can then move on to use the potential you heard: "From what you said, it seems that you are willing to change this situation. Do you have any ideas for dealing with this issue?" It's important not to find solutions for others, but to let them find their own solutions... with our support. But that's another topic!
If someone approaches you to talk about how proud they are that they hit a milestone you could clarify by saying something like: " That's amazing! It sounds like you are really having an impact." Once the person confirms that is what they meant, perhaps, you can push them gently "So, what's your next step?"
How does yoga help?
Yogic philosophy: One of yoga's yamas, the first of ethical principles is ahimsa: non-violence. By listening to others with purpose, we are truly being non-judgemental, and we are non-threatening. Violence takes so many forms: simply giving unsolicited advice could be perceived as a form of violence, humiliation, making someone feel silly or ignorant... Yoga teaches us to simply take things as they are, without our own filters and bias.
Physically: Yoga poses you can use to help listen carefully to individuals are heart openers. While you cannot really start practicing poses when you're talking to someone, a very easy way to do this is stand tall on your feet, spine straight, arms alongside your body as you listen and turn your palms so they face forward. (Check out tadasana, mountain pose!)
If this doesn't feel comfortable, try clasping your hands behind your back, or even more simply, consciously sending your shoulders back slightly.
Here is part 2!
Image: Permengspace (France)