Listening is a powerful tool that allows leaders to do better, lead better, and be better. When we talk, it comes from a place of knowing; when we listen, it originates from the intent to be empowered. Becoming a better listener will immediately put you in the power seat in any situation. Listening is more than being actively engaged in what the other person is saying, it's about managing four conversations with any given person. Why four conversations?
There's the conversation ...
You are having with the other person using your body language
With the thoughts that are going on in your head
That the other person is having with you
With the thoughts that are going on in their head
Your journey in becoming a better listener that achieves goals more efficiently starts with merging these conversations.
Practice Focus To Improve Presence
Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Now continue to breathe normally with your eyes closed. Listen to your breathing. Without opening your eyes, are your feet in a symmetrical position to each other? Which direction is each one facing?
Whatever the outcome of the exercise, you realize the amount of focus you need to read your own body. How would you describe this experience? How did you create focus? Your focus does not come from ignoring everything around you -- rather, it comes from being intentional about where you want to pay attention.
Channel your focus in the right direction. When you thought about what position your feet were in, you did not have to do or think any differently -- you just had to pay attention to what was happening. In your next conversation, just as your mind focused on your feet, practice focusing on the other person without having to control or change anything. Focusing on the other person is as simple as figuring out the position of your feet. This ability will help you merge No. 1 and No. 2 of the conversation outlined above.
When you learn to focus this way, you spend less time battling your thoughts and emotions, and more time gaining the listening ability that will put you in the power seat.
Improve Awareness To Gain Powerful Insight
Now that you have found how to get yourself focused, we'll focus on merging No. 3 and No. 4 of the conversation. These will become quite natural as you get better at focusing yourself.
Earlier in my career, I enrolled in an executive coaching program led by Dr. Robert Hicks at the University of Texas, Dallas. I learned about the concept of a client's "map of the world." This refers to the world consisting of the other person's beliefs, expressions and perception filters. The key takeaway from this concept (in this context) is that there is an intricate dance between what people think and how they express themselves. As part of being a better listener, leaders must learn to uncover the hidden messages in conversations. For example, metaphors are often used by others to describe their thoughts. Ask to explore their map by leveraging their language.
Other person: "We are on a sinking ship."
You: "In what ways do you believe the ship is sinking? How do you know it is sinking? What saves this ship from sinking? What is your role in this scenario?"
This type of exploration will empower you to navigate their thoughts and uncover solutions. Practice listening and responding to metaphors and person-specific language this way, and you will gain a new way of exploring people maps. In return, you will gain trust, respect and a perspective that will put you in the power seat.
We have only touched the tip of the iceberg on how to become a better listener, but this will help you move from four conversations to just one. Imagine that most of you are having four conversations every time you talk to one person. How would that complexity grow in a group setting? How would you be in the power seat, as a leader, to make the right decisions when you have to listen to a multitude of conversations in a group?
Practice these techniques with individuals you are close to or trust. By being focused and improving your awareness, you will have the listening ability to merge these conversations into one shared vision, goal or objective.
[Originally posted on Frobes https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/people/alantrivedi]