"Hearing is listening to what is said. Listening is hearing what isn’t said.” — Simon Sinek
If you know me personally, then you know I love to tell stories. All my best ones start with, “Let me tell you about …,” fill in the blank. Ninety percent of the time, the blank is filled in by one of two names, Pat or Bobby. Momma and Daddy are what I call them when I’m talking to them, but Pat and Bobby are how I refer to them when I’m talking about their mind blowing shenanigans.
I am very lucky, because Pat and Bobby have been great parents who love me unconditionally and would do anything for me. Well, anything but listen. Sometimes I think God is using them both to teach me patience.
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said, “You’re not listening to me,” I’d own an island. If love was graded by how well my parents listen, they’d both get an F. Lately one of them is trending towards an F-minus, and although I won’t name him, HE knows who HE is.
The truth is my parents aren’t the only ones who don’t listen. Statistics show most people don’t listen and only remember 17-25 percent of what they’ve heard. This loosely translates to a parent only hearing the word “not” anytime I say, “You’re not listening to me.”
It’s not that they’re actively ignoring me (well, I suspect they might be at least 50 percent of the time, but I don’t have statistics to back that up).
The real reason why they’re not hearing what I say is because they’re normal. The main reason why people don’t hear is because they’re too busy thinking about how they’re going to respond.
The other major reason is because they’re actively thinking about something else or even worse, multitasking while I’m talking (one of my parents has this bad, and although I won’t name her, SHE knows who SHE is).
How can we fix this? Well we can’t fix how other people listen to us (no matter how badly they make us want to put a megaphone to their ears). However, we can change ourselves and the ways we listen.
In my coach training I learned there is more than one type of listening. There are actually three levels. Level One listening is what most people do. It consists of listening to yourself, your thoughts and your agenda. It’s listening to speak and to be heard more than it is to hear the other person.
If you want to improve your listening skills, strive to go to Level Two. This is where you focus intently on what the other person is saying. You’re so focused on the other person’s words and giving them your undivided attention that you literally shut down all the thoughts in your own head. As a result, you become engulfed in and curious about what they’re telling you and you’ll want to know more.
One way I changed how I listen to my dad is to pause the television every time he starts talking to me (ironically, he only starts talking when I’m watching a recording, and never during the commercials).
If you want to be a master listener, you’re focusing not just on the words the other person is saying. You’re also focused on their body language and how they move their hands, or sit on them, as they talk. You notice the slightest changes in the tone of their voice, the pauses, and the pace. You’ll see the crinkling of their nose, the raise of their eyebrows, the squint or widening of their eyes.
At Level Three, you won’t just hear what they’re saying, you’ll almost feel their energy and their mood. It’s as if the words won’t matter because you’ll hear what’s behind the words.
Level Three listening takes practice, but it’s also a game-changer. It’s a master skill that I employ as a coach, but also with my nieces and nephew any time I have the opportunity to get one-on-one time with them. Why? Because it’s powerful. I want them to know that they’re seen and heard, and most important, that they matter.
Isn’t that what we all want for those we love?
Tricia D. Teague is a speaker, founder of The Trep School, and trained coach with the Coaches Training Institute. She can be reached at email@example.com. To schedule a free coaching session by going to www.thetrepschool.com/coaching