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Am I Listening to Hear? How Intentional Listening Builds a Culture of Trust.

Ask yourself these questions:

Am I listening to hear?

or

Am I listening to speak?


Ask yourself also...

What would it sound like if my thoughts were being broadcast while I am listening to someone?


Would the sound be:

Focused silence?

Low background noise?

Full-blown conversation?


There are a million individual and circumstantial reasons why we are not intentionally listening. Often when we listen we are distracted and focused on how we will answer. Or what the other person says triggers a memory, a thought and suddenly we are thinking about our own experiences. Or sometimes we are just stressed and worrying about our own concerns. Our mind is really loud making it almost impossible to quietly listen with the intention to really hear what our friend, partner, client, or co-worker is saying.


My guess is that most of us know what it feels like to not be heard. We can all think of conversations we have had where we knew the other person was not really listening to us – maybe they kept looking at their phone, their watch, or around the room. Or maybe, if on the phone, we could hear background noise … the sound of the computer clicking or papers rustling. You just knew without a doubt that you weren't really being heard.


How did that feel?


Intentional listening is one of the best ways to show people we value them and value what they have to say. Intentional listening embraces listening on a personal level. It becomes our mindset and we take it to heart as our purpose, our personal mission.


Intentional listening speaks peaceful words of affirmation, respect, and love.


To LISTEN is a verb and it is ideally an active verb. It is a simple skill that we are born with, but like any skill, to be perfected it takes practice. One thing that I learned as a counselor and as a professional life coach is HOW to listen. Along with empathy, I believe it is really one of the main skills that you need to develop to be successful at this job. Imagine sharing with your coach and they continually interrupt you or constantly give you their unsolicited advice and opinions. Or worse, they are on their phone, looking at a book, or gazing into the distance! You probably would find a new life coach!


The same is true in personal and work relationships. When we give others the gift of our full attention, they are empowered! Our intentional listening is both freeing and empowering to the receiver.


Intentional listening grows trust. Trust opens doors to innovation and a sharing of ideas. A sharing of ideas leads to growth and expansion.


People want to be heard. They want to genuinely be listened to. They want to be validated, respected, and valued. Intentional listening does all that and in the process creates a culture of trust.


How do we practice intentional listening?


When we gift someone intentional listening, we are:


Concentrated. We have quieted the "noise" in our minds. We are focused completely on what the other person is saying and also on what they are not saying. When we are totally concentrated we take note of non-verbals too. This helps us to unconditionally hear all that is being said. We are fully in the moment.


Connected. We are fully united with our friend, coworker, partner... This is achieved by silencing our minds and temporarily putting aside our worries and concerns. Setting our intentions completely on the other person. Opening our heart and mind to engage completely with them. We practice being all-IN to hearing the other person and all-OUT to hearing any distractions.


Compassionate. We are filled with empathy. I am a big believer in the importance of empathy. According to emotion researchers: Empathy is "the ability to sense other people's emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling."(Read more here.)

When we have empathy we see the world through the other person's lens without judgment. What an important trait this is as a leader, a friend, a co-worker, a human!


There is nothing wrong with speaking. It is actually part of communication. There is a time for us to speak, but when my FOCUS is on what I am going to say or when I get to say it, then I am not fully attending to their words and thoughts. When we use intentional listening we are QUICK TO LISTEN and SLOW TO SPEAK!


One of my clients is an amazing salesperson. She consistently outsells the other members of her team. I recently asked her what her secret in selling is. She said, "I first let them speak. I do not interrupt or interject. I intently listen to what they want to say and then I rephrase it back to them to make sure I heard them accurately." Wow! Intentional listening is such a beautiful gift that we can give to others.


Finally, we, the listener, also benefit from intentional listening. We receive the other person's trust and respect when we practice and give intentional listening. We are unconditionally aligned and united. As a friend, leader, co-worker, spouse, parent... there is no greater gift than receiving someone else's unwavering trust and respect.


When we lead with intentional listening, we lead with love and create a culture of trust.


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