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10 tips for mindful listening


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Whether you’re working on designing better experiences or you’re an organizational change agent trying to transform your organization, listening is one of the most important skills in your toolkit. To …

Whether you’re working on designing better experiences or you’re an organizational change agent trying to transform your organization, listening is one of the most important skills in your toolkit. To understand what people truly need you need to be a great listener. To build trust and diffuse negative energy you need to be a great listener. To transcend the assumptions and worldviews that constrain your thinking you need to be a great listener. But listening is really hard. Most of us are poor listeners because we’ve never been taught how to listen. To become a powerful listener, treat listening as an active skill to work at.

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  • 1. listen, listen…
  • 2. Merlijn Hoek flickr
  • 3. Vince Alongi flickr
  • 4. you may think you’relistening
  • 5. but are youseeing?
  • 6. A master martial artist asked Bruce to teachhim everything Bruce knew about martialarts
  • 7. Bruce held up two cups, both filled withliquid by :: Robee ::, flickr
  • 8. The first cuprepresents all of your knowledge about martial arts.
  • 9. The second cuprepresents all of myknowledge aboutmartial arts.
  • 10. If you want to fill your cup with myknowledge, you must first empty yourcup of your knowledge.Bruce Lee
  • 11. imagineyou’re sitting on a plane, hoping you don’t get an annoyingseatmate who wants to talk
  • 12. suddenly, a big guy wholooks eager forconversation sits downnext to you…
  • 13. moriza. flickr
  • 14. how do yousee thisperson?
  • 15. large plastic baggrand canyon muteAleutian pretzel man
  • 16. flipyourfocus by ecstaticist
  • 17. How does this personsee themselves and theirsituation?
  • 18. This wasn’tLarge Plastic BagGrand Canyon MuteAleutian Pretzel Manthis was a real person with aname and a history and storiesthat make him laugh and cry.He was a who, not a what, justlike me. Patti Digh Say Hi to Yaron
  • 19. imagineyou’re thinking about (or trying not to think about) thechallenge of poverty in Africa
  • 20. how do yousee thesepeople?
  • 21. flipyourfocus
  • 22. How do these peoplesee themselves andtheir situation?
  • 23. I have the power to change my world andmake a better life for my family.
  • 24. imagineyou’re an eager employee preparing to pitch a new initiativeto your Chief Financial Officer (CFO) who has a reputationas the “VP of No”
  • 25. how do yousee thisperson?
  • 26. flipyourfocus
  • 27. How does this personsee themselves andtheir situation?
  • 28. I’ve got a thankless role with the diciestrisk/reward ratio of any job short of aNavy Seal. Todd Baker << technowannabe, flickr
  • 29. How do I see this How does this person person? see themselves and their situation?
  • 30. how does flipping your focuschange you and yourapproach?
  • 31. filters take us from all sound to what we pay attention to distorting what we hear and creating our reality
  • 32. culture language labels values inner dialog status experiencespreconceptionspreoccupations assumptions attitudes intentions stress expectations beliefs
  • 33. empty yourcup
  • 34. Listening is not an automatic consciouspilot. It is adecision… STOPEVERYTHING YOU’RETHINKING and listen.Suspend your own frame ofreference. Focus externally.Turn off your ego. Quitthinking everything revolvesaround your opinion. Give thestage in your head tosomeone else!Sunni Brown
  • 35. Listening is magic: it turns a personfrom an object outside, opaque, ordimly threatening, into an intimateexperience, and therefore into a friend.In this way, listening softens andtransforms the listener.Norman Fischer
  • 36. The point is to understand peopledeeply – so deeply you could live theirlife, walk in their shoes, and makedecisions the way they would.Indi Young
  • 37. what’s your listening position?
  • 38. Listening positionsBreak into pairs A share why you came “I came to this event because…” B listen from different positions  Im bored  I want to be friends  Im in a hurry  What can I learn from this? A share your experiences B share your experiences Swap and repeat
  • 39. everyone has astory
  • 40. I wonder why they’re doing that? Saying that?be deeply curious
  • 41. Gee, that’s a dumb way of doing it!listen to what you’re thinking
  • 42. even if they aren’t knowledgeable wonder you’re I about what whats for dinner tonight? seeking insight on, the extent of their knowledge or misinformation is usefulstay in the moment
  • 43. That makes no sense… it takes forever that way.suspend judgment
  • 44. This is pointless. I’m going to cut it patient
  • 45. I already know that, let’s skip over it...adopt a beginner’s mind
  • 46. My idea is really cool. They just don’t get it.letting go
  • 47. They’re awfully defensive. I’m not going to learn kind
  • 48. seek the unknown unknowns
  • 49. abandon your script
  • 50. to find the story
  • 51. dig beneath opinionconjecturepreference
  • 52. surfacingthe insightshiddenwithin theirstories
  • 53. Stories are the large and small instruments ofmeaning, of explanation, that we store in ourmemories.Joe Lambert
  • 54. Stories carry emotional information, hopes,desires, intentions, and pieces of relevantinformation.Seth Kahan
  • 55. 10 tips for mindfullistening
  • 56. 1
  • 57. yes, that’s the sound of silence (your mostpowerful listening tool!)
  • 58. use body language to show interest with2 nonverbal cues
  • 59. smilingnoddingmaking eye contacttilting your headleaning forwardopening and relaxing yourbody posturerelaxing your handsrelaxing and breathing
  • 60. avoidfrowningnot moving your headlooking awaylooking downglaringslumpingbeing stifffidgetingsighingyawning scragz flickr
  • 61. use verbal cues to encourage and show3 interest
  • 62. it’s a matter of uh huh priority priority?encourage notice keyword echo
  • 63. Could you say a bit Interesting I see more about…encourage acknowledge draw out
  • 64. avoiding yes | no prompts They probably don’t want hear any more … Anything else? No. yes | no prompt
  • 65. yes | no prompts close down conversation, keepingcontrol with the questioner Would…? Do…? Are…? If…? Will…? control
  • 66. use open prompts instead Well, the last What else? time… they must be interested in hearing more <silence> open prompt
  • 67. open prompts draw people out When…? What…? Why…? Describe… How…? Tell me about… hand over control
  • 68. dig deep with WHY4
  • 69. Because I’m loud. When I wasn’t a supporter I was loud about it… probably fought it the first 6 months. I think it changed when I got introduced to favorites. I didn’t have to drill down every single time.I’m not sure why I [Name] heard me complaining. He was sitting near me. He came was chosen for over and showed me favorites and changed my life. this interview. Why do you think you were chosen? why (follow the verb)?
  • 70. See how many attachments there are in my Inbox? Lots from HR. If it was a It’s not a How do you corporate priority HR corporate know that? wouldn’t be sending priority. attachments.abstraction reveals frame
  • 71. but be careful with why prompts because they kickthe rational brain into gear hmmm, why do I do it that way? maybe because… why did you do it that way? … I have too much to do, so I can’t afford the time… rationalization
  • 72. follow the story!5 listen for abstractions or generalizations and prompt for concrete experience
  • 73. When was the Well, yesterday Normally I last time you <name> called me to search… did that? ask for… Can you give me an example? probe for specificabstraction experience story
  • 74. try to imagine the entire scene … who was involved? next?
  • 75. who, what, when, why, how… … how did it end? what did you do?
  • 76. extend the story by exploring themes were there other Tell me about them. times…? yes elicit more stories explore theme
  • 77. working down the abstractionladder LH Walker
  • 78. offer an hypothesis and let them fix your6 understanding
  • 79. Sounds like you’re sayingthat you waste a lot of time So you chasing down answers… That’s partly the mean…? reason, but also… let go incorrect hypothesis “fix” understanding interpretation
  • 80. paraphrase to show understanding, clarify7 misperceptions, and build relationships
  • 81. Sounds like you’re 1, 2, 3… saying…listen mentally summarize restate (your words)
  • 82. be brief, don’t parrot back, convey no judgment, useYOU What Im hearing is that you… restate (your words)
  • 83. listen for outliers to understand workarounds8 and probe for opportunities
  • 84. That’s a really odd. Looks like when youNo one else would need to [x], you do [y] ever do that. Let’s talk about why you Well, what do that. happens is… assumption set aside assumption ah, opportunity!
  • 85. listen for and reflect back their words9
  • 86. I keep everything …it’s client What do you mean, together in client server… client server? I’M the matter folders client!your words their words
  • 87. use empathic listening when they share10 feelings or show emotion
  • 88. content contentfeeling feeling
  • 89. anger fear contemptsurprise happiness sadness
  • 90. watch for tells in expressions, body language, or tone
  • 91. frustrated elated angry exhausted awed timid disappointedhonored stressed excited joyous confident nervous depressed fearfulshocked friendship hopeful relaxed torn proud change courageous accepteddelighted success disgusted embarrassed amused happy jealous convictionpity remorse sad surprised worried unhappy strong stand respectappreciated distant
  • 92. tune into their feelings to increase their comfort andencourage them to continue Every day I have you’re feeling upset to… 1, 2, 3… because 1, 2, 3… it pisses me off! reflect feelings, listen for feelings mentally summarize restate content
  • 93. The way it was implemented led to You’re feeling frustrated because compartmentalization. If process had led us, we you work on projects with other departments. Because it would have been much could belong to any of those departments, you find it difficult farther along… It’s the to know where to put things. And when you need to email nature of our work. We someone, you never know if you’re going to have access to work with x, y, and z. that department’s folder. So you feel that you’re Makes it difficult to know… wasting a lot of time and that things aren’t organized. 1, 2, 3…emotion in tone or body reflect feelings, language mentally summarize restate content
  • 94. Being heard is soclose to beinglovedthat for theaverage personthey arealmostindistinguishable.David Augsberger kelsey_lovefusionphoto flickr
  • 95. test yourlistening
  • 96. Can you tell the story from theirperspective?
  • 97. Did what you hear challenge yourassumptions? Change your worldview inany way?
  • 98. always be listeningevery question is a drop of clarity in a seaof change Sean Rogers1 flickr
  • 99. practice, practice, practice
  • 100. build a library of great questions, questionbeginnings or prompts
  • 101. be astory collector
  • 102. stories reveal what people care about most
  • 103. stories reveal how people perceive the world
  • 104. stories point the way to insights
  • 105. Maybe stories are just data with a soul.Brené Brown
  • 106. learn to listen so you cansee
  • 107. Open your eyes and focus on whatever you observed before – thatplant or leaf or dandelion. Look it in the eye, until you feel it lookingback at you. Feel that you are alone with it on Earth!That it is the most important thing in the universe, that it contains allthe riddle of life and death. It does! You are no longer looking, you areSEEING…The Zen of Seeing, by Frederick Franck Neal flickr
  • 108. keep in (email) (blog) (Adoption Community)