Get out of your own way

Barriers to Effective Listening
This past weekend I facilitated a family conference for successful succession planning where one of the participants said to me, “When you are facilitating, you are with us – it’s like there is no one else that exists”. I started thinking about how important it is to be fully present when we’re listening and what gets in the way of active listening.
In his book Quiet Leadership, David Rock says”….we literally hear only what we listen for. Listening for potential requires a willingness to identify and put aside mental states that could cloud our ability to listen openly. A Quiet Leader does a critical thing-they listen for people’s potential. When a Quiet Leader listens, they listen to people and believe in others completely. They encourage and support others in being the best they can be, just in how they listen, without saying a word.”
Are you listening effectively?
Most of us do this–while we’re listening, we’re planning our response. This behaviour doesn’t give us the opportunity to be fully present to what the other person is saying. Also, we’re in love with our own ideas and show up with preconceived notions about situations, putting up a barrier to our ability to consider new ideas.
Related Search: Simply More is an Executive Business Coach and Communication Consultant.

The Art of Listening
Mastering the art of listening is a crucial component of effective leadership—a good leader understands people want and need to be heard. The best leaders are open to hearing what others have to say and understanding they are the not the only ones with the answers.
Common Barriers to Effective Listening
The next time you’re in an important conversation with someone, pay attention to see if you’re engaging in these common barriers to effective listening:
1. Are you showing up with predetermined attitudes and assumptions about the other person or the subject matter being discussed?
New shared meaning and understanding can be created by good conversations, but only if the participants are open to consider those new possibilities. Many of us use conversation to reiterate our own positions with the result that little is gained.
TIP: Try this—join a conversation with an open mind and desire to learn something new by listening without curiousity or bias.
2. Are you so preoccupied with your own thoughts that you are unable to listen attentively?
Sometimes we are so distracted by other situations unrelated to the topic of conversation, or we’re so busy formulating our response, we miss what’s said. Focusing attention on the other person’s words isn’t always easy.
TIP: The part of our brain called the prefrontal cortex, used to plan complex cognitive tasks, make decisions and choose proper social behaviour, is easily overwhelmed. Our brains can only process about seven pieces of information in our conscious mind at any one time, making it impossible to pay attention to several things simultaneously. To listen actively and push aside distracting thoughts requires discipline and training.
3. Are you busy completing the other person’s thoughts and jumping to conclusions?
Often we hear something and think, “Oh, I know where she is going with this.”  We attribute ideas, motivations, and intentions to others that may not be true, leading to misunderstandings. This happens most often if we have known the other people participating in the conversation for a long time; we think we know what they are going to say.
TIP: Active listening requires patience. Let others finish what they are going to say and don’t make assumptions.
4. Are you engaged in selective listening?
Sometimes we listen only to what we want to hear. We like to be right and we don’t feel comfortable when something contradicts our belief systems. It’s easier for us to ignore information that isn’t consistent with what we believe. The downside to this is that we then don’t learn from others and can’t effectively collaborate.
TIP: To overcome selective listening, try paraphrasing or mirroring back what you heard to make sure you understand the other person’s point of view. To practice this, engage in conversations with people who you know you disagree with and learn to respectfully discuss your disagreements. Encourage diverse opinions with the plan of considering them thoroughly and learning from others.
5. Are you paying enough attention to body language and other forms of communication such as rate of speech, emphasis, tone and intonation?
What’s being said is only a small part of communication. Body language, how fast someone is speaking and tone give clues to their emotions, feelings and stress levels which can provide important information that isn’t being expressed in words.
TIP: Try focusing on what’s not being said. Active listening includes being a good observer.
6. Are you in too much of a hurry to listen effectively?
We’re all busy and want to get on with our own business, so we’ don’t take the time to listen and can’t wait for the other person to finish what they’re saying. People are able to sense when you don’t really want to listen and this behaviour can create barriers.
TIP: If you’re always trying to control the pace of the conversation, try to intentionally slow yourself down or suggest a better time to talk. A conversation shouldn’t be a race.  
In Five Steps to Start and Make Business Work, Richard Branson says, “As a leader you have to be a really good listener. You need to know your own mind but there is no point in imposing your views on others without some debate. No one has a monopoly on good ideas or good advice. Get out there, listen to people, draw people out, and learn from them.”
Related Search: Simply More offers 1-3 day Leadership Training & Workshop series. This training helps you connect with your peers, communicate about common issues, and explore solutions.

Listening vs. Hearing

Listening is giving your focused attention and presence on the other – that is a rare gift.  It is an action that demonstrates you care.  We live in a busy world where most of us are stretched thin with many balls in the air.  We have high brain noise distracting us from our goals and depleting our energy.  We juggle between the endless list of things to do and time for the people we love and often the joy that is present in every moment is overshadowed with pressure of competing items on our plates.
There is a real distinction between hearing the words and listening for the message.  Listening involves a more sophisticated mental process than hearing; it demands energy and discipline.
Listening to someone whole heartedly allows other people to be heard, to be seen and to express themselves in a way that builds self-esteem.  Listening permits others to resolve their own problems which cultivate a “True” confidence in themselves.  Being heard reduces stress, eliminates conflict, and fosters respect and loyalty.  True listening is a basic human need that promotes a sense of belonging, collaboration and cooperation.
Did you know?
– 45% of people’s time is spent listening in business; however as you up the corporate ladder, the time spent listening increases to 55%.
– 70% of waking hours are spent in verbal communication
– Organizations operating at a low level of listening efficiency usually have high turnover
– Most people will not really listen to your point of view until they become convinced you have heard and appreciate theirs
– We listen at 125-250 words per minute, but think at 1000-3000 words per minute
Filters influencing how we listen:

         Values          Beliefs          Memories
         Expectations          Interests          Assumptions
         Attitude          Past Experience          Perceptions
         Emotional State          Physical Environment          Prejudices

Strategies to expand your presence and listening skills:
Be Present
Listen with purpose
Suspend all other activities from mind
Paraphrase: “Here’s what I heard…” or “What I got from what you said is….” or “What I understand you are saying is…”
Listen to understand — not to respond
Make eye contact
Ask questions
The “Voice Mirror” was introduced by Sue Walden of Improv Works at a CAPC (Calgary Association of Professional Coaches) meeting I attended:  It is a transition tool to shut your brain off and bring yourself to being fully present with someone.  It can be used when you find yourself drifting.  The “Voice Mirror” technique: Silently in your head repeat the words the person is saying as quickly as they are saying them”.  I’ve played with the technique and did experience success in being more present with people.
Have fun taking on your wondering mind and enjoy the rich conversations available to you from your listening in a new way!