We all want to feel listened to.
In an increasingly digital world, most of us crave being really listened to, and being really really heard. I recently read Kate Murphy's new book 'You're Not Listening', which provides a fascinating insight into the science and current research in this area.
I see listening and hearing people as a fundamentally important part of my work - sometimes in the form of spoken conversation and sometimes by holding space for their writing, and the opportunity to share their words.
But what are the different levels of listening? Types of listening have been categorised and defined time and again, but I like really like this sequence from the co-active coaching model,
(Co-active coaching: Changing business, transforming lives', 2011), which I have summarised in a way that makes clear sense to me:
You hear the words someone says, but the focus is your own reaction to them – what they mean for you.
Your attention is focused on the speaker rather than the outside world. You listen to the words, watch the physical responses and consider the meaning of what is being said.
Your listening is broader and deeper. It focuses on everything that surrounds and accompanies the speaker's words: their emotions, energy levels, pauses and intonation. You are listening with the true desire to understand the speaker's beliefs, assumptions and motivations.
It can be a valuable self-reflective exercise to consider what kind of listening you normally do. The 'ideal' to aim for, in my opinion, would be the global listening style where you are fully engaged in the speaker rather than yourself. Of course we can't always do that all the time, and your listening skills will fluctuate depending on your personal circumstance in that moment. However, like any skill building, I believe that our listening can get better with conscious practice, and I am on a constant mission to make mine the best it can be, both for my work and personal relationships. Because I'm so passionate about this, I would encourage everyone to do the same - because being able to listen is a beautiful gift to offer someone.