A simple definition is “listening with intention”. Go deeper. As a listener, start by getting out of your own head and away from your perceptions, biases, and ideas. Focus completely on the speaker. Notice the words, phrasing, and verbal behaviors of the speaker. Notice also their emotions, energy, and level of thinking. Be aware of their perceptions and possible biases. Consider whether they are primarily emotional or logical. Observe whether they are talking about what they see, what they hear, what they do, how they feel, where they are, what they smell, what they taste, and most significantly, what it all means to them.
During coach training participants discuss listening and practice listening skills. Basic skills include an awareness of different listening styles, rephrasing or succinctly summarizing for clarity, reflecting emotions and energy behind what is said, listening cumulatively, plus awareness of personal style, learning style, language patterns, and thought patterns. As coaches further enhance their skills, recognizing context and easily adjusting to the language of the speaking further enhances listening.
What does intentional listening accomplish? Intentional listening meets a very basic human need of the speaker, to be heard and understood. As much as this is sought, the irony is that the majority hear far less than they realize.
- According to the Harvard Business Review, “It can be stated, with practically no qualification, that people in general do not know how to listen. They have ears that hear very well, but seldom have they acquired the necessary aural skills which would allow those ears to be used effectively for what is called listening.”
- CreditDonkey says “It can be stated, with practically no qualification, that people in general do not know how to listen. They have ears that hear very well, but seldom have they acquired the necessary aural skills which would allow those ears to be used effectively for what is called listening.”
- Scientific American published a full post titled “Now Hear This! Most People Stink at Listening”
What does all this mean? Consider the implications in your own life. If you accept the norm you miss important information and limit your potential. One of the reasons that coaching certification is so significant is that coaches develop listening skills that in turn serve the speaker because they are heard and understood.