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6 Pack To-Go: 6 Keys to Really Listening

Susan Scott, in her brilliant book, Fierce Conversations, lays it on the line: "the conversation is the relationship".  How do you want to show up in your relationships?  Do you show up that way in your conversations?  What is happening when you are engaged in a conversation and you are not speaking?  Here is a nice 6 Pack To-Go for any and all conversations you might find yourself in:

  1. The eyes have it.  Eye contact is huge. Eyes that dart around the room, stare off at an invisible target on the floor or wall, or look up from the table once every ten seconds or so can be a major distraction to the person you are engaged in a conversation with.  Show your true intention of receiving information by maintaining convincing eye contact.  I work with young teens at a charter school and I am amazed at how often eye contact is absent when things are off track.  Connectedness is quickly restored by reestablishing good eye contact...so stay checked in on where your eyes are.
  2. Be aware of what your body might be saying.  Countless books and seminars have been written about what a manager is saying when she stands over a seated subordinate during a discussion or what someone with folded arms might be saying. Let's keep it simple.  Be present in the conversation with your whole self, body included.  Sit or stand comfortably in a way that enables candid, even fierce exchange.  Be natural.  Don't fidget.  Simply bring your whole self into the conversation.
  3. It is not competitive badminton.  Don't anticipate your next verbal volley.  You will miss 99% of what the other person is saying if you focus on forming your next sentence...or two...or three instead of focusing on the conversation.  Try putting some "verbal collaboration" into play.  Use words of confirmation and/or understanding when it is your time to speak.  Summarize an idea or thought that is shared.  Verbally connect with some specific aspect of the conversation.  Acknowledge and build on an idea or comment.  Connect; don't prep for an overhead smash!
  4. Silence is cool.  Take a minute to digest.  Breathe. Think.  Treasure the white space.  Take it all in.  A thoughtful pause before you speak can allow for personal reflection and demonstrate respect for the person you are in conversation with.  Try counting to three before you reply.  You might be amazed at what small bits of silence add to a conversation.
  5. Think tandem bike, not competitive motocross.  Maintain alignment with the other person. Change direction together.  Don't throw in a statement or question about Saturday's NFL game if your partner is sharing information about a tough challenge with his boss.  Stay on track.  Manage the transitions.  You will be richer for it.
  6. Be there.  Put down the blackberry, the newspaper and the remote.  This is no time for Olympic-level multi-tasking.  Be totally present in the conversation...and no where else.  If you cannot commit to "being there", let the other person know and consider rescheduling the conversation.  You have much to give.  Bring it all to the conversation.  

"There is so much more to listen to than words.  Listen to the whole person." - Susan Scott

Thank you for enjoying this 6 Pack To-Go.  Please THINK responsibly.