I Hear You

Why Really Listening is Such a Cool Skill

As a coach, I know the value of listening as a skill.

Many would say that in our profession, it is THE skill we use the most.

Yet the truth of the matter is that listening is THE skill for everyone. Be you a leader, supervisor, or anyone really who interacts with others in life!

It is a skill that we use every minute of every conscious moment in our lives and yet, perhaps one of the most challenging abilities that we seek to master.

To listen fully to what someone else is saying to us, adds such value to a relationship. Indeed much more than solving other peoples’ problems for them. For when we listen, we give ‘space for thought’ to them – as our gift. Enabling them to work out what they might do to resolve the challenges they face, for themselves.

And this is such a difficult skill to get right.

For we have within us a powerful enemy that simply wants to fix the issues others have and move on. Fuzzily warm in the knowledge that we are super smart and are better than them.

But wait.

Let’s take a little look at what we did. We listened. We processed the information in our own heads and created a solution from within us, for them.

Aren’t we clever?

Of course within that we’ve achieved exactly what we wanted. Not necessarily for them. Rather for ourselves. The nice warm glow of having solved someone else’s problem, satisfies our own inner need of how amazing we are.

Who has gained the most here?

When we hear a challenge someone else has, we’re tempted to offer solutions to fix their problem. Because like to think we know best. Right? So, once we’ve done well and fixed them, we’re feeling pretty good within ourselves, for our ego has had a lovely polish and feels pretty proud of itself.

In the case of the person sitting in front of me, what’s their gain?

Well, someone else has spent a little time listening to what they have to say and then, I might have provided their magic wand to fix the problem they brought to me.

In some cases it will be valuable – and yet, as they leave me they will also have a gnawing, subconscious void within them, that tells them that they are even more unworthy than when they started out. They had a problem they couldn’t solve for themselves. Someone else could and so, they’re feeling even worse.

Indeed, they feel rather attached to my solution that they’re committed to doing what I told them to – even though they’re actually not that sure it’s right.

Let’s take a look at what happened here.

Someone needed an ear to share their circumstances with. So they sought me out and shared their perspective. I listened for a bit and then, from my perspective, shared what I thought they should do to move the problem right along.

And there’s the disconnect.

In life, we run along with a view of the world that is uniquely ours. We have lived a life full of experiences that are our sole provider of the skills to make decisions about the way we move forwards. And they are personal. More than anything else; they are purely our own.

So, as we hear what other people say, our capacity to understand what they say is only our perspective on it. When they come to us with things to say, they are from their perspective and theirs alone.

They are wearing blue tinted spectacles. We are wearing red ones. And between us we are looking at something brown. And trying to get right along.

We use common words and every single one of them is deciphered only on the basis of our unique perspective on life. Through red or blue or an infinitely infinite number of shades across the spectrum and beyond.

It’s a miracle we can get along at all!

So when we interpret an issue someone else is facing and overlay what we hear with our idea of a solution, it’s like fixing a brown with a red, using green.

Far better to listen.

Be there for them and tease out their red vision of the world with our neutral lenses in. When we stimulate their thinking and ideas to solve their own problems, we are removing our perspective and the judgments based on that – however challenging we might find that.

Everyone can do this.

For to sit; listen; and make the space for someone and then elicit their further thinking is a generous gift to give.

This then enables THEM to be their own solution finder. The owner of the thinking. Not you and your need to stroke your own ego.

Listen. Hear. Facilitate.

That is being the best you can be.

Martin Haworth is an experienced UK-based coach and trainer with TNM Coaching, working worldwide with enlightened organisations who see the light in leadership and management development.

Martin Haworth
Martin Haworth