I’ve Been Listening All Wrong

In all of my coaching, I consistently advise clients to listen first, sell second. But it turns out…I’ve been listening all wrong.

More to the point…I realized I needed to listen as though I’m wrong. What that means is that I don’t have all the answers and the ones I do have could be wrong. I need to wait to get all the information before forming my response. Wow…when that hit me, I realized how much more connected I could become to my clients. What a way to start off the new year!

Giving is Receiving

Have you ever noticed that when you’re speaking with someone, the person starts to talk before you have finished your thought? Or they will say, inadvertently, “Oh, I knew that.” Generally, people do this to demonstrate their participation in the conversation. They also may do this defensively. In either case, it is passive listening in the sense that they really aren’t hearing what you’re saying…they are just waiting for their turn.

To counter this, I’ve decided that I will give my ear (and time) to their fully expressed thoughts. I am committed to listening as completely as I can with the hope that they, in turn, will listen to me. Each day I’ve done this in 2020, I’ve gotten better at understanding a person’s sentiment behind what they’re saying. I get more in tune with them. I illustrate my patience and ability to honor their thought. I’ve also discovered I’m better able to uncover their personal plight or challenge. The mere acts of giving my full attention has allowed me to receive more information, more insight, and more details from which I can create a recommendation.

Slowing the Framing of Responses

Like you I’m sure, it is impossible for me not to frame my rejoinder thought/comment to someone who’s speaking. It’s involuntary. The big difference with my new “always wrong” approach is that I am slowing down the response-framing by over-listening. Essentially, I am listening with no hidden agenda. And the result? I’m amazed at how forthcoming people are. I’ve gotten far deeper into their core issues…and have gotten there faster since we aren’t debating my quickly-formed opinions. My response are more information leading to a better, two-way conversation.

Putting This Transformation into Practice

Many years ago, a great client offered me a large position within his organization. At that time, I was in the planning of going out on my own, so as much as I was honored by his offer, I knew I was destined to run my own business. During our interaction though, he asked me something I’ve never forgotten. He asked, “I’ve seen you train over two hundred of my team this past year and I’m curious, do you do anything wrong?” At that moment I became a deer-in-the-headlights. I didn’t have a clue how to answer him, essentially, I froze.

Noting this, he came back with saying, “You’re delivering the exact training I want, but are you approachable once the program is over?” And that trigged a revelation.

What I had been somewhat blind to is that my training had a bias. I had time for the participants that “got” what I was teaching, but not for others who needed more time/context to get it. The training messages were about me, NOT about what I was offering for people to assimilate and adapt their own lives and careers.

I changed my teaching style from his feedback. I’ve made it my focus to make time for everyone in any training. This change in my behavior inspired a desire to learn more about myself, my humanity and drove a deep desire to help people. That’s why this year I’ve chosen to listen as though I’m wrong, to allow people to fully express their ideas, issues, or frustrations. The value of listening as though you are wrong is to put yourself in a secondary position/mute your desire to fix, allowing the other person to fully express their thoughts, with NO AGENDA to correct them, only to contribute to, hear and acknowledge them, when you have understood their plight.

I feel like a better person from this, excited to see how 2020 unfolds with a new perspective.

Can you listen like you’re wrong? Need some help? Let’s connect and work on it together.