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The science and art of Listening at four levels deep

My Leadership Coach helped me to understand both the science and art of Listening at four levels deep

Effective communication is an essential part of successful leadership, and listening plays a significant role in communication. Leaders who develop strong listening skills can better understand their team members’ needs, motivate and inspire them, and build better relationships with them.

In this post, we will explore the science and art of listening at four levels deep and how leadership coaches can help leaders develop these skills.

 

Level 1: Identifying key ideas and language patterns

The first level of listening involves identifying key ideas and language patterns. Leaders need to listen carefully to their team members to understand their challenges and concerns fully.

Identifying key ideas and language patterns is important because it helps us understand the underlying meaning of what someone is saying. People use language to express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas, and understanding how they use language can help us interpret their message more accurately.

By identifying key ideas and language patterns, we can better understand the context of the message and the intent behind it. It also helps us identify any underlying themes or issues that may not be explicitly stated. When we listen actively and identify these key ideas and patterns, we can respond more effectively and offer more relevant support, guidance, or solutions.

For leaders, identifying key ideas and language patterns is particularly important because it helps them build better relationships with their team members. Leaders who can understand their team members’ communication styles and patterns can communicate more effectively and empathetically.

They can also tailor their leadership approach to the needs of individual team members, leading to improved performance, productivity, and job satisfaction.

Identifying key ideas and language patterns requires active listening, which involves paying attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues. Here are some ways to identify key ideas and language patterns:

  1. Pay attention to the words used:

Listen to the specific words the person is using and the way they use them. Are they using technical language or jargon? Are they using metaphors or analogies to explain their point? Understanding the words someone uses can help you identify key concepts and themes.

  1. Listen for repetition:

If someone repeats a particular word or phrase, it is likely that this is an important idea or concept that they want to emphasize.

  1. Look for patterns:

Identify the patterns in the speaker’s communication, such as the tone of their voice, the speed at which they talk, and the use of pauses or silences. Identifying these patterns can help you understand how the person is feeling and what they are trying to communicate.

  1. Consider the context:

The context of the conversation can also give you clues about key ideas and language patterns. For example, if you’re having a conversation about a particular project, the language used may reflect the project’s goals, objectives, and challenges.

A leadership coach can help leaders identify key ideas and language patterns by teaching them active listening skills and providing them with feedback on their listening abilities. The leadership coach can help the leader identify patterns in their team members’ communication and provide guidance on how to respond effectively.

For example, a leadership coach might help a leader recognize when their team member is using a lot of technical languages and suggest ways to clarify the language to improve communication.

Leadership coaches can also provide training on how to use questioning techniques to identify key ideas and language patterns. By asking open-ended questions, leaders can encourage their team members to share more information, which can help identify key ideas and themes.

For example, a leadership coach might teach a leader to ask questions like “Can you tell me more about that?” or “What specifically do you mean by that?”

Overall, a leadership coach can help leaders identify key ideas and language patterns by teaching them active listening skills, providing feedback on their listening abilities, and training them on how to use questioning techniques to gain deeper insights into their team members’ communication.

By developing these skills, leaders can build stronger relationships with their team members and communicate more effectively.

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

 – Epictetus

 

Level 2: Observing body language

The second level of listening involves observing body language. Leaders need to be able to read and interpret their team members’ nonverbal cues accurately.

Observing body language is important because it can provide valuable insights into a person’s emotions, attitudes, and intentions, which may not be fully conveyed through words alone. Body language includes nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, gestures, posture, and eye contact.

By observing body language, we can gain a more complete understanding of what someone is communicating. For example, if someone is saying that they are excited about a project, but their body language is closed off and their arms are crossed, it may indicate that they are not actually as enthusiastic as they are trying to convey.

Similarly, if someone is avoiding eye contact, it may indicate that they are uncomfortable or have something to hide.

Observing body language can also help us identify when someone is in distress or needs support. For example, if someone is slouching and avoiding eye contact, it may indicate that they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

For leaders, observing body language is particularly important because it can help them build stronger relationships with their team members. Leaders who are able to read their team members’ body language can more effectively respond to their needs and provide support where necessary.

They can also adjust their communication style to better suit their team members’ preferences, leading to improved rapport and job satisfaction.

Observing body language requires paying close attention to a person’s nonverbal cues, which can be subtle and easy to miss if you’re not looking for them. Here are some ways to observe body language:

  1. Pay attention to facial expressions:

Facial expressions can convey a lot of information about a person’s emotions. Look for changes in facial expressions, such as a frown, a smile, or raised eyebrows, to help you understand what the person is feeling.

  1. Observe gestures:

Gestures such as hand movements, nodding, or leaning forward can also indicate a person’s feelings or intentions. For example, if someone is nodding along with what you’re saying, it may indicate that they are in agreement.

  1. Watch posture:

Posture can also provide clues to a person’s mood or attitude. If someone is slouching or crossing their arms, it may indicate that they are closed off or defensive.

  1. Consider eye contact:

Eye contact can also be an important indicator of a person’s feelings or intentions. If someone is avoiding eye contact, it may indicate that they are uncomfortable or have something to hide.

A leadership coach can help leaders observe body language by teaching them how to read nonverbal cues and providing them with feedback on their observation skills. The leadership coach can help the leader identify patterns in their team members’ body language and provide guidance on how to respond effectively.

For example, a leadership coach might help a leader recognize when a team member is feeling stressed or overwhelmed and suggest ways to offer support.

Leadership coaches can also provide training on how to use body language to communicate more effectively. By being aware of their own body language, leaders can project confidence and establish trust with their team members. Additionally, by adapting their body language to suit the situation and the person they’re communicating with, leaders can improve their ability to influence and persuade.

Overall, a leadership coach can help leaders observe body language by teaching them how to read nonverbal cues, providing feedback on their observation skills, and offering training on how to use body language to communicate more effectively. By developing these skills, leaders can build stronger relationships with their team members and communicate more effectively.

“Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions;

watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

– Lao Tzu

 

Level 3: Paraphrasing, summarizing, and clarifying

 The third level of listening involves paraphrasing, summarizing, and clarifying what the person has said. This is important because it helps ensure that communication is clear and effective. These techniques involve restating or summarizing what someone has said in your own words, or asking for clarification when something is unclear.

Here are some reasons why these techniques are important:

  1. Avoid misinterpretation:

When we paraphrase, summarize, or clarify, we can ensure that we have understood what the other person is trying to communicate. This can help avoid misinterpretation or misunderstanding, which can lead to confusion or conflict.

  1. Confirm understanding:

By restating what someone has said in our own words or asking for clarification, we can confirm that we have understood them correctly. This can help build trust and rapport in relationships, as it shows that we are actively listening and engaging with the other person.

  1. Encourage further communication:

When we use paraphrasing, summarizing, and clarifying, can encourage the other person to provide more information or details. This can help us gain a deeper understanding of their perspective, needs, or concerns.

  1. Improve communication skills:

Using these techniques can also improve our communication skills by helping us become better listeners and more effective communicators. By actively engaging with others and ensuring that we have understood their message, we can build stronger relationships and achieve more positive outcomes in our interactions.

For leaders, paraphrasing, summarizing, and clarifying are particularly important because they can help build trust and credibility with team members. By demonstrating that they are actively listening and engaging with their team members, leaders can create a culture of open communication and collaboration.

Paraphrasing, summarizing, and clarifying are important communication techniques that can help ensure that messages are understood correctly. Here are some tips for using these techniques effectively:

  1. Paraphrasing:

Paraphrasing involves restating what someone has said in your own words. When paraphrasing, try to capture the main idea of what the other person has said, without changing the meaning. Use your own language, but keep the same tone and intent as the original message.

Example: Original message: “I’m feeling overwhelmed by the workload this week.” Paraphrase: “It sounds like you’re finding this week’s workload difficult to manage.”

  1. Summarizing:

Summarizing involves giving a brief overview of the main points of a conversation or message. When summarizing, try to capture the key ideas or takeaways from the conversation.

Example: Original message: “In our team meeting today, we discussed the new project and decided on the key priorities. We also talked about the challenges we might face and how we can address them.” Summary: “In the team meeting, we discussed the new project, identified key priorities, and brainstormed ways to overcome potential challenges.”

  1. Clarifying:

Clarifying involves asking questions to ensure that you have understood the other person’s message correctly. When clarifying, try to ask open-ended questions that encourage the other person to provide more information or details.

Example: Original message: “I need you to complete this report by Friday.” Clarification: “Just to confirm, you need me to finish the report and submit it by Friday. Is that correct?”

A leadership coach can help leaders develop their paraphrasing, summarizing, and clarifying skills by providing feedback and coaching on their communication style. The leadership coach can observe the leader’s communication style, identify areas for improvement, and provide guidance on how to use these techniques effectively.

For example, a leadership coach might help a leader learn how to ask open-ended questions to encourage dialogue or practice paraphrasing to ensure that they have understood their team members’ needs and concerns.

By improving their communication skills, leaders can build stronger relationships with their team members and create a culture of open communication and collaboration. A leadership coach can help leaders achieve these goals by providing support and guidance on how to use these communication techniques effectively.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

– Stephen Covey

 

Level 4: Exploring the unsaid by extracting more

The fourth level of listening involves exploring the unsaid by extracting more information. Exploring the unsaid by extracting more is important because it helps uncover underlying thoughts, feelings, and motivations that may not be immediately apparent in communication.

Sometimes, people may not feel comfortable expressing their true thoughts or feelings, or may not be aware of their own underlying motivations. By exploring the unsaid, we can gain a deeper understanding of what someone is really trying to communicate and build stronger, more meaningful relationships.

Here are some reasons why exploring the unsaid is important:

  1. Uncover hidden motivations:

By exploring the unsaid, we can uncover hidden motivations or underlying reasons for someone’s behavior. This can help us better understand their perspective and respond more effectively to their needs.

  1. Build trust and rapport:

When we take the time to explore the unsaid, we show that we are genuinely interested in understanding the other person’s perspective. This can help build trust and rapport in relationships, as it shows that we are willing to listen and engage with them on a deeper level.

  1. Avoid misunderstandings:

By uncovering hidden thoughts or feelings, we can avoid misunderstandings that might arise if someone’s true intentions or motivations are not clear. This can help improve communication and prevent conflicts from arising.

  1. Enhance problem-solving:

Exploring the unsaid can also help enhance problem-solving by uncovering hidden assumptions or perspectives that may be contributing to a problem. By addressing these underlying issues, we can develop more effective solutions that address the root cause of the problem.

For leaders, exploring the unsaid is particularly important because it can help them build stronger relationships with their team members and develop a deeper understanding of their needs and concerns. By uncovering hidden motivations or concerns, leaders can respond more effectively to their team members and create a culture of open communication and collaboration.

Exploring the unsaid by extracting more involves actively listening for underlying thoughts, feelings, and motivations that may not be immediately apparent in communication. Here are some techniques for exploring the unsaid:

  1. Ask open-ended questions:

Asking open-ended questions can encourage the speaker to share more about their thoughts and feelings. These types of questions typically begin with “what,” “how,” or “tell me more about.” For example, a leader might ask their team member, “What are your concerns about this project?” or “Can you tell me more about what you mean by that?”

  1. Reflect back on what you hear:

Reflecting back on what you hear can help clarify and validate the speaker’s thoughts and feelings. This involves summarizing what the speaker has said and asking for confirmation. For example, a leader might say, “So, it sounds like you’re feeling frustrated because you don’t feel heard. Is that right?”

  1. Pay attention to nonverbal cues:

Nonverbal cues, such as body language and tone of voice, can provide clues about the speaker’s underlying thoughts and feelings. For example, a team member might say they are “fine,” but their body language and tone of voice may suggest otherwise.

  1. Be empathetic:

Showing empathy involves putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and understanding their perspective. This can help create a safe space for the speaker to share more about their thoughts and feelings. For example, a leader might say, “I can understand how that would be frustrating. What can we do to address this issue?”

A leadership coach can help leaders with exploring the unsaid by providing guidance and support in using these techniques effectively. They can help leaders develop active listening skills, such as paying attention to nonverbal cues and reflecting back on what they hear. They can also help leaders develop empathy and create a safe space for team members to share their thoughts and feelings.

In addition, a leadership coach can help leaders recognize their own biases or assumptions that may be preventing them from fully exploring the unsaid. By challenging these biases and assumptions, leaders can develop a deeper understanding of their team members and create a more inclusive and collaborative work environment.

Overall, exploring the unsaid by extracting more is an important communication technique that can help leaders develop a deeper understanding of their team members’ thoughts and feelings. A leadership coach can provide valuable guidance and support in using these techniques effectively and creating a more inclusive and collaborative work environment.

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”

– Peter Drucker

 

Conclusion

Listening is a critical leadership skill that can help leaders build stronger relationships with their team members, understand their needs, and improve communication. Leadership coaches can help leaders develop their listening skills at all four levels and become better listeners.

By improving their listening skills, leaders can become more effective communicators and build more successful teams.

 

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Based on that exposure, our company has intentionally set out to support those practicing the art and science of leadership – or as often referred to, “Executive Talent.” These are people who acknowledge that they are not experts. They are open to opportunities for continued growth and carry the desire for learning what is needed to become a success in today’s complexity and uncertainty.

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