Why Aren't You Listening to Me!

Every parent has said these words to their kids at some point.  And if you don’t have kids, you’ve likely said these words to a loved one.  In the business world, it’s a widespread complaint that people don’t listen.  Why is it so hard?

Countless business gurus teach “deep listening”, and “active listening”, they tell people to listen fully without thinking about what they are going to say next.  But as much as we can tell people this, real listening is still a rare find.

Here are some tips to improve your listening skills.

You have to actually care about the other person and what they are saying.  That’s right if you truly don’t care what the other person is saying, it’s impossible to listen fully.  If you truly don’t care, put both of you out of your misery, and just end the discussion. Let them go talk to someone who cares.

Commit to focusing on what they are saying.  Experts talk about “level 3 listening”.  

  • Level 1: Listening to your internal voice
  • Level 2: Listening intently to another person
  • Level 3: Listening to others in the context of their surroundings.

Can you quiet your mind to listen fully to the other person, and allow the surroundings and context to emerge?  It’s a bit like meditation in that you need to train your mind to focus. Meditation is a great practice to help you focus on listening.

Let go of planning your response.  Free your mind from thinking about what to say next, and you will be able to fully listen.  Most of us find this very difficult. One way to practice letting go of planning is through Improv.  In Improvisational theater, or Impro, there’s no way to know what the other players will say, so there is no way to plan your next line.  You start to see that when you don’t plan, you build the confidence that the answer will come, and usually, it’s better than what you would have planned.  Once you get used to the line or the answer is there for you, you stop trying to plan.

What if the other person is not listening?  You can’t force someone to listen.  But you can model the behavior you want to receive.  It’s cliche, but true, “Be the change you want to see”.

How have you tuned you listening behavior?  Let us know!