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10 tips for mindful listening

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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10 tips for mindful listening

  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)