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Listening for Understanding

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16665174_1630074180342181_5408315012232472101_oDuring a recent workshop around the topic of Cultivating Organizational Well-Being: Good for Your Business, I had the pleasure of talking to an engaged group of professionals about the skills involved with Listening for Understanding.

The quick takeaways are:

  1. Listening to learn more
    Ask non-leading, open-ended questions. Use “how” and “what” questions that allow the speaker to further explain their perspective. Avoid “why” questions.
    Example: I am curious to hear more about what lead you to this statement? What are your personal experiences with this topic? What was your personal take-away from that situation?
  2. Listening for shared meaning
    Restate key points and ask for clarification if you are not sure if you heard something correctly.
    Example: What I heard you say is … When you said abc, it makes me think zyz, is that what you meant?
  3. Listening for agreement
    Confirm where you share the perspective and agree with a point.
  4. Listening for new information
    Let the speaker know if you learned something new and if you feel inspired to gather more information about a topic.

After you have met the speaker on his or her side of the situation, offer your perspective and any potential concerns. Make room for different opinions and perspectives. And simply acknowledge the disagreement.

I did the unthinkable and brought politics into the conversation and the lack of Listening for Understanding that most public discourses exhibit. The audience’s response was amazing and encouraging. It made me wonder what may happen if more people practiced their Active Listening skills – at all levels of interactions involving differences of perspective and opinion, which given that we are all uniquely human would be pretty much all the time.

So here is my offer to the community: You find a group of 20 people in the Washington Metropolitan area interested in learning and practicing Listening for Understanding and I will come and we will break down communication barriers together. What do you think?


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