It’s really not that easy to listen well. We are easily distracted. We engage in selective listening, hearing only what we want to hear, our minds acting on a cognitive bias for consistency rather than truth. And that’s just the start.
This quote from Chris Voss’ excellent book “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It” perfectly sums up the challenges we have with listening. Listening also happens to be one of the most important leadership skills – particularly in these exponential times where everything moves faster, and we need to process more information in ever shorter periods of time than ever before.
In coaching we distinguish between the three levels of listening: (1) Internal (you listen to the voice in your head), (2) Focused (you listen to the person interacting with you) and (3) Global (you tune into what’s going on in the room). Sadly we spend way too much time in level 1 – our own head.
Becoming aware in which level you are at any given moment and thus gaining the ability to consciously switch levels is an incredibly powerful tool.
Say, you find yourself in a meeting with your leadership team. Many of us will spend a considerable amount of time in our head; mulling things over, thinking about what to say next or how to react to something (or even thinking about stuff which has nothing to do with the content of the meeting at all). Being able to identify this level 1 listening behavior and consciously switching your listening to level 2 (for example when you are interacting with one member of the group) and level 3 (to suss out the “temperature/energy” in the room) allows you to gain a much deeper understanding of what’s going on and drive to much better outcomes.
Interested in honing this skill? Here’s a PDF from the Coaches Training Institute with more information.