Take the Listening Challenge!

Take the Listening Challenge!

Are you a good listener?

Most people answer “Yes” to this question and then wonder if they know what it means to be a good listener. Many speakers think good listening means taking turns, and during the other guy’s turn you can plan your clever retorts, or sort your grocery list.

Are you wondering about your listening behavior? Take the Listening Challenge and see what you think.

Here’s how to do it:

– Set aside a few days for your experiment.

– During this time you will not refrain from talking, of course, but you will be aware of turning off your speaking motor as much as possible. This means Off- not just Pause.

– The difference between Off and Pause is that, freed from the need to rehearse your speaking moments, you will let yourself be open to whatever is out there, and you will let it in without putting up your barriers. You’ll know what I mean when you try it.

This may mean, depending on your default communication style, that when others are speaking, you will NOT do these things:

– Look for opportunities to jump in with a retort or an observation;

– Throw in some humor (other people’s stories can be so dry…);

– Note the things that you will need to correct when it’s your turn;

– Offer endings to their sentences (their stories can also be really long…);

– Plan your turn.

And when the speaker finishes, you will not now tell your stories. This is a LISTENING challenge.

So what will you do during this time? If you’ve really turned off your motor and opened yourself to the other person’s world, some responses will become obvious. You might have questions or comments that encourage the speaker to continue. You may become so interested in what you’re hearing that you want to know more. You may have only silence while you both think about what’s been said. You may notice more about this person and her story than you would have if you’d been preparing for your turn to speak, and you will be able to stay with her while she speaks.

The Listening Challenge may further mean that you extend your experiment into the times when you aren’t engaged in conversation with others, but just with yourself. You probably bolt through your days with your mind clicking along replaying, reviewing, prepping, worrying and chewing at one task, problem, or idea – cycling through the same self-talk like a little hamster. What happens when you turn off that motor?

Maybe you’ll find that you’ve opened a curtain on what goes on out there. Attend to the street noises; the accents of the people you pass; the facial expressions of the people in your workplace; the slips of conversation at the side-walk café; the tension in the office next to you; the explosive laughter into a cell phone. You can take a little trip into the worlds of others and see what it feels like to be present in the moment, without having to provide any commentary. Enjoy the show; there’s a little peace to be had in being at rest.

If you take the Listening Challenge, let us know what you think! Remember, Listening is simple but not easy.

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