Listening…. we do it every day, often without further thought. To music, the weather report, our loved ones and colleagues. And of course we also listen to our customers. So what’s the difference between listening and actually hearing what someone says? What’s the difference between saying something and actually being heard?
A wise man once showed me the Chinese character for listening. Are you familiar with it? This character comprises a number of words which together denote listening: Ear, you, eye, undivided attention and heart. It was a real eye-opener for me, seeing that for the first time. This image contains everything we need to truly listen.
Ear. So far so good, We need those to be able to hear and therefore to listen. The difference between hearing and listening is found in the other components.
You. Listening is not about you, it’s about the other person. We don’t listen in order that we can then talk about ourselves. We listen because we are genuinely interested in what YOU have to say. That’s why our reaction includes questions.
Eye. We listen not only with our ears, but also with our eyes. By truly seeing. What happens to you while you’re telling your story? What does your face say, your body language, your conscious and unconscious movements? What we see adds value to what we hear.
Undivided attention. If we truly listen, we pay full attention for the person telling us something. We’re not governed by time. We’re focused on that person and are not distracted by our surroundings. Or by our own wandering thoughts.
Heart. Listening with your heart. Empathizing with what is being told, being touched by it. This allows us to connect with each other and with the stories being told.
‘Yes, okay, what’s next?’ You might be thinking. For now, there is no next. Just this. Just listen. Try it sometime and see how it works. At home and at work. With your colleagues and your customers. Truly listening is energizing, as is being truly heard. Sometimes that will suffice, but not always. But it begins with truly listening.