Morning Muse

How to Listen Better

With the holidays coming up, I thought it might be a good time to talk about ways we can listen better to people that we disagree with. We've all had some challenges with this at time and it takes practice to overcome it. And the ways to overcome it are actually by understanding two blocks, two major blocks that we have to work with in order to listen well to anyone. And especially to people that we disagree with. The first one is the ability to stay present in the conversation without being distracted. And the second one is the ability to accept the other person's perspective as a truth for them, as well as your own perspective, as a truth for you. And I'm gonna break each of these down and talk about what that looks like and some ways in which you can overcome them. The first one we know this is very challenging and your environment has to support you being able to stay present in the, in the conversation.

And so that's going to take some proactive steps from you. I remember when I was in corporate America 20 years ago, uh, starting out, and this was before social media that we had today and all the distractions. And I had a leader that was constantly distracted by his email during our one to ones. That was the only thing we had back then, right. And it took me a while to say something. And once I did, I requested that he shut off his email while we were having our one to ones. And I would sit and wait and actually not speak until I had his full and undivided attention. That was probably very shocking and surprising for him. And luckily, you know, he played along. Now our one to ones became more productive and shorter as a result over time. And nowadays you have so many distractions, more than email.

We wear our watches that vibrate or ding at us, our phones, some of us get very anxious whenever we see red dots or numbers, um, on our apps that indicate that there's something to respond to or something that we might miss. And we need to give ourselves a little bit of a break and be kind to ourself because this will take some layering of tiny actions. One of the things that you can do is actually turn off the vibrations on the watch or the dings on the watch. You can and keep your phone off the table, not just face down on the table, which many of us do inside of meetings, but actually physically off the table, or even don't bring it to the meeting. You know, if you're going to a conference room or you're going to a different location, you know, you leave it in the bag, you leave it in the car.

And so you don't even have the urge to take it out because guess what happens when somebody else takes out their phone, we take out our phone too. We can't help, but be distracted by it. So, um, the other thing you can do is to, um, have more conversations in person. It's much harder to distract yourself when you're sitting across the table from a person and you know, to your comfort in this day and age, you know, that's what we have to work with. And sometimes it's in zoom and there's ways to do that in the zoom environment, as well, closing all windows, all notifications, silencing everything, making your self view hidden and just having the face of the person or the people in front of you, allows you to stay very present in the conversation without being distracted with practice and focus. This can become your default action and you'll notice how much better your relationships and your results actually become.

So pick one change that you can make in this area right now, commit to that, keep it simple, and then pick a meeting in which you're going to practice it in and then check in with yourself afterwards and see what impact did that have on the meeting? What information did you hear in that email or that interaction that you might have missed otherwise? Did you catch things in the conversation that would've passed by you? Were you able to contribute to the conversation in a more meaningful way and did the person walk away feeling more energized and more important to you as a result of the interaction? So how do you practice this? How do you maintain a distraction free zone? What's your number one tip that you can share with everyone? And we can learn from your ideas.

The second thing that blocks us from listening better and being able to create bridges with people that we disagree with is being able to do what I call accepting two truths. It's practicing duality in the conversation and in the communication, really being able to understand and appreciate the other person's perspective as a hundred percent true for them, as well as yours being a hundred percent true for you. This is such a powerful technique that creates these bridges of connection that makes the relationship and the results better over time. What this requires of us though, is the ability to practice, not taking things personally, or at least paying attention. When we feel that we are taking it personally, we have to give up the need to win, to control or to influence. That is hard. And, uh, and that take some practice. We also have to give up the need to be right.

These are also challenging, and it requires us to recognize our own egos and start to question why it matters to us that this person doesn't see things the same way we do. When we feel threatened, we work to change the other. Instead of looking inside to see what is being threatened inside of us. Here's the shift. We need to get curious about their worldview, as well as our own worldview, to better understand their worldview, ask yourself, what do you know about their life and business experience? That's informing their perspective. What about those experiences have led them to these conclusions? Ask questions. If you don't know how they got there, pretend like you don't know them at all. And you're learning their history and background for the first time, you'll probably hear tiny little nuggets that will help better understand their perspective and why that's a truth for them.

You take yourself out of that equation then to understand our own worldview and why it's bothering us so much. We can do the same when we feel that urge to correct another or defend our perspective. That's our first clue that the ego has popped up. And that's awesome that we notice that because none of us can truly change another. All we can do is become better informed about ourselves and why it matters so much to us. So let's pivot and get curious about what ideas, thoughts, or beliefs we are trying to protect. What beliefs, if proven wrong or questionable, would we be forced to make a change, a change that would bring about discomfort, which most of us want to avoid? If we're honest, there's so much change going on in the world right now. If we can minimize what we feel on a daily basis, we want to, that's a survival technique and an instinct.

Oftentimes why we can't truly listen is because we are blocked by part of our own ego. I talked about it earlier and at Intently, we define the ego as a combination of parts that only exist to keep us safe. These are the pieces of ourselves that have a positive purpose. They want us to be accepted and they want us to feel like we belong. And they want us to feel significant or valuable in some way. That's the only job of the ego. Oftentimes though, when the ego steps in, it creates more disconnection. And what I like to call a self-fulfilling travesty, we unintentionally create the result that we are most trying to avoid, which is rejection, disconnection, dismissal, and it's holiday dinner. You know, it's a fight and it's tension and it's all the things. So the next time we feel an urge to correct or defend while we're listening, just stop, go inside and ask yourself about your own.

Why, what do you disagree with? Where does it come from? What does it say about you? If you are different from the other, can you still be friends? Can you still show up at the same dinner table? Can you still relate in a way that feels good and connected? If you can accept two truths, theirs and yours, this will go a long way to be able to accepting difference. So can you learn to ride the wave of this emotional discomfort inside without trying to change the other that's the practice. So pay attention to yourself during the day. Here's how to make this practical in, in a meeting or at the holiday table, where do you feel the urge to assert your opinion and disagree with your kids, your partner, your boss, your family. We went through this a lot in our family because we had a lot of political difference.

And so we had to practice being open and listening for the other person's perspective and the other person's truth and practice asking, what is this about for me? You know, for me, quite frankly, with my son, it was, oh, wait, my ego. He has a different view than me. Oh, what does that say about me as a mom? Right. I think that's a very natural response to something like that. And I had to learn to pay attention to that and kind of ride that wave of discomfort of he's his own person. He's going to have his own worldview. And I started to get curious about his view. So really pay attention to what you believe is being taken from you or denied you in that moment. By listening to the different point of view, then notice what it does to, how you feel about these relationships.

When you start creating space for the other to simply be them and listen with a beginner's ear and in a way that invites the other to feel heard and valued, if they are open to receiving that kind of connection. And that's why I said, invite, oftentimes people aren't open for that kind of connection, but you showing up in a certain way and you controlling your behavior, invites them to receive that kind of attention. It's so rare nowadays, to find people who truly listen. And when you do, you know what that feels like, and hopefully that's something that you already do really well for others. And this is another way to take that skill even farther and deeper. So let us know what you're going to practice today. Think about a time in which this could be really useful to you at the holiday table in the next meeting, with the person that really bothers you and identify one thing you wanna practice. We'd love to support you and crowdsource ideas to help each other. And please forward this or tag someone that you think really needs to hear it. We appreciate you, and we hope you have a happy holiday.

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