I was reminded not so long ago just how rare it was for any of us to listen to someone without ego and for their benefit rather than our own. I posted a tweet paraphrasing Nancy Kline: When with others, the quality of our attention determines the quality of their thinking. A good friend of mine quipped in response: The quality of their thinking determines the quality of our listening.
A joke, but in it is carried the very essence of the barrier to effective listening that Nancy was drawing our attention to. To listen effectively, you need to listen with curiosity and not judgement, with a desire to understand before seeking to be understood, with an awareness of ones own bias rather than an expectation of another’s.
By listening in this way, we can help free the speaker from any defensive reflex, any fear of being judged, any concern of being cut off before relieving themselves of their burden. In this very act then, the speaker feels more able to trust the listener and more able to attend to the challenge they are describing.
The quality of these conversations can lead the speaker to reveal more information than even they may have been explicitly aware of themselves. Whether you are a coach or mentor, a manager or leader, a colleague or peer, a partner or friend, the quality of your listening can truly help bring a new clarity of understanding that ordinary conversations will miss.