Fundamental of the Week #2: Listen Generously

Give others your full attention, be present and engaged and set aside internal conversation in your head as best you can. Let go of your need to agree, disagree, or judge. Be empathetic and listen for the needs of others. Listen with curiosity and make sure you get all the facts, separating facts from interpretation.

I used to think if I could repeat what a person said, especially with the same intonation, then I was listening. What I didn’t realize is what I was really listening to was my internal filters about what the person speaking to me was saying: “I agree, I disagree,” “that’s right, that’s wrong, I like it, I dislike it,” etc.

Then someone suggested trying to listen with my whole body. I couldn’t imagine what they were talking about. They explained, “you are listening from your own point of view, so you only get a piece of what they are attempting to communicate. Try listening from their point of view, what’s important to them about what they are saying, how they feel, what is their emotional state. That takes listening with your whole body. Let your body feel what they are feeling, what words do they emphasize with emotion, what expressions do you see framing their conversation? Seek to see what they are seeing; listen for what’s important to them. Share back what you heard is important to them. If you miss the mark, they will correct you with their intended communication, plus they will experience being heard in the process.”

As I tried to put this coaching into practice, it took effort on my part. I was much more comfortable with my interpretation of what I thought about their meaning. It took generosity on my part. I increasingly found gratitude on their part.

Einstein is quoted as saying, “All reality is merely an illusion, albeit a persistent one.” Apparently, it’s possible that what I think is real (the truth) about the world, life and others, really is just my particular version of what I see, hear and think. When I listen generously to others I get an insight into their unique version of reality and life and others. And this, my friend, is very powerful information.

Craig Clark
Founder and CEO,
Momentum Consulting, Inc