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Easy Listening

Rhonda’s reflections:

Okay, okay. I know I’m supposed to promote myself on my blog about ons, filters and habits and how each of those aspects of the coaching process impact the results they are ngs and cars but no people.

T: Had it been raining?

P: Not sure – I guess it might have been.

T: So there were puddles?

P: I guess there could have been puddles.

T: And, I’m just guessing here, might there have been fish in those puddles?

P: Wow – I suppose there might have been…

T: (triumphant) Ah ha! Just as I suspected – fish in the dreams!

While most of our own biases are not so obvious and don’t seem so silly (at least to us), the point is that if you’re listening for something specific, you’ll tend to find it. Listen for hesitation in the voice of your partner and boom, you’ve “caught” him lying to you. Listen for warning signs of trouble in your relationship and before you know it, they’ll be everywhere.

The problem isn’t so much to do with what you’re listening for, but what you’ll miss by listening for it. Whether it’s the affection in your partner’s voice, the look of love in her eyes or the sadness in your child’s heart when they’re telling you about their day, if you’re looking too hard for something else, you’re liable to miss what’s actually there.

As Abraham Maslow once said, “To the man who only has a hammer in the toolkit, every problem looks like a nail.” But when you expand your listening pallet, you will be able to hear more and more.

2. Listening to the voice inside your head vs. Listening to the other person

Have you ever had your best “go ahead – I’m listening” face on while inside your head you’re saying to yourself something like “oh my god I can’t believe they’re telling me this for the nine millionth time will they ever learn what day is it today is it Tuesday I wonder if there’ll be something good on television tonight…”?

As you may have noticed, when we get caught up in our internal dialogue, we not only lose track of what the other person is saying to us, we often lose the plot altogether. Yet most of us habitually go inside our heads while “listening” in order to formulate our response to what is being said. This is roughly akin to looking for your keys inside the house instead of out in the street because the lighting’s better in your house. If the keys are outside, you won’t find them on the inside no matter how well illuminated things may seem.

3. Listening hard vs. Listening easy

“Purpose tremor” is a phrase which describes the slight shake most people notice in their hands when they first try to thread a needle or remove the shin bone in a game of “Operation”. Simply put, our muscles work better when we’re not trying so hard to make them work better.

What’s sometimes less obvious is that the same thing is true with our listening:

*It’s easier to hear what’s really going on with other people when we’re not trying so hard to listen to them.

When you listen to another person speaking the way you might listen to pleasant background music (the kind they play on “easy listening” stations), things will often jump out at you which turn out to be the keys to unlocking whatever is going on for that person.

And when you learn to listen to yourself in the same way, it becomes easier and easier to separate out your own mental chatter from the still small voice of wisdom within.

——————– Today’s Experiment: ——————–

1. Choose a few non-crucial conversations to experiment with this week and notice what you can notice about your own habitual listening filters. Are you listening for problems or opportunities? Holes in their argument or openings for resolution? What they’re saying with their words or what they’re communicating with their feelings?

2. Just for this week, play with turning down the volume on the voice inside your head when you’re listening to someone else speak. Notice how much more you hear, and whether or not this actually does make the other person feel “heard”.

3. Practice “easy listening” this week – listening the way a tape recorder or film camera might do it. No effort involved – just allow the words to come in pass right through with nothing on your mind and no agenda for what you do or don’t want to hear.

Bonus Experiment: Practice “easy listening” to your own internal dialogue this week and discover what you can discover.

(c) 2007 Michael Neill/All Rights Reserved

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