Deep Listening: A Skill That Transforms Relationships and Enhances Understanding

I learned to really listen for the first time when I was studying for my Advanced Diploma in Executive and Personal Coaching. And let me tell you, it was eye-opening. In this article, I share what I learned, how I applied it since then, and how it can help you as well.

Understanding the Nuances of Listening

Listening is one of the most important skills one can learn. It consists of two elements: The act of listening and the art of listening.

The Act of Listening works on multiple layers. It is not just listening to the words and hearing what is said; it is also watching how it is being said. The tone and the type of words being used. For example, if someone says ‘I hear you’ vs. ‘I get you’ vs. ‘I see’.

The Art of Listening is to understand the meaning behind the words. To create meaning through skillful listening and making the other person feel heard, seen, and understood, that is art.

To achieve this, the other person needs the space to express themselves. This space can be created by replacing judgement with curiosity. Instead of defending one’s own point, arguing, or confronting in general, the use of clean language can help the other person get it all out. Only then is there room for constructive conversation. Only then can trust be created and common ground established.

Using “Clean Language” means that we avoid the use of leading questions or one’s own metaphors; we stop influencing another person’s thoughts and feelings during a conversation. This is achieved by mirroring another person’s tone, words, and body language.

The Barriers to Listening and How to Overcome Them

The biggest challenge with even just the act of listening is that we are too busy figuring out what we say next. Instead of just letting go and really being in the moment, we are occupied with constructing our words or even arguing in our heads already with the other person.

Have you ever been in a situation where you just wanted to tell your partner or peer something that drives you nuts, but all they did was offer you solutions? You weren’t even finished telling them everything!

This happens all too often. Instead of listening, the other person has already fixed your problem and wants to move on. Instead of truly listening, they are busy coming up with solutions and want to appear clever. What does this leave you with? It can lead to anger and resentment.

As the other person, it is hard to let go of our own needs and truly listen. It is hard to create the meaning behind the other person’s words, tone, and gestures. To fully focus and take it all in without judgement and to stay curious, while doing all of the above, is one of the hardest skills to master.

To help with that, you can use encouraging statements like “Go on, tell me more”, “What happened then?” or just repeat the person’s last couple of words with a question mark at the end.

Listening as a Tool for Personal and Professional Growth

Once you have achieved not just the act but also the art of listening, new opportunities will open up. Your relationships will improve drastically, and you will become a trusted advisor to your peers and people you interact with.

Your Action Items:

Practice active listening: When you engage in conversations, focus on listening and understanding rather than trying to come up with a clever response.

Be Present and Mindful: Cultivate being present in your interactions and give your undivided attention.

Look for the different layers: What type of words does the other person use (auditory, visual, or haptic), what tone are they speaking in, and what is their speed? Can you try to mimic this?

There is a next level, so let me know if you practiced above and felt a difference. I’m happy to share more!

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Last Update: November 23, 2023