Tucked between the content on Living Systems and Leaning Into Healthy Conflict on the day we visit the jail is a segment in LEAD 365 called High Impact Listening. It is sandwiched between those two topics for good reasons. Here’s one of those reasons: Great listening breaks the power of dysfunctional living systems by stopping those nearly automatic responses that are part and parcel in the conversations where people become emotionally wired. Here’s another reason: Being able to “turn yourself off” and “seek first to understand” (the basics of listening) are absolutely essential for Leaning Into Healthy Conflict.

There are few good books out there on High Impact Listening. One of those is the Mark Goulston book Just Listen. I want to recommend it for those of us who want to sharpen our listening skills. This post will give you a teaser in hopes that you’ll want to dig in and absorb even more of the content. 

By the way, Mark Goulston is a practicing psychiatrist and a business coach (interesting combo!); he works for the police as a hostage negotiator, and intervenes in suicide-threat situations. All of these things have helped him become an expert in High Impact Listening.

Here is a taste of four pieces of the great content from Just Listen with few of my own thoughts to go with it. Add these to your arsenal in becoming a High Impact Listener:

  • Rewire yourself to listen
  • Make the other person “feel felt”
  • Be more “interested” than “interesting”
  • Help people exhale, emotionally and mentally

Rewire yourself to listen
Most of us have a natural tendency to make snap judgments about people AND about what they are going to say. We’ve made up our minds about attentiveness simply by seeing the other person walking toward us. Setting aside your biases about other people takes intentional effort. We know this from Living Systems and those nearly automatic reactions that people have when they spend more and more time together.

Make the other person “feel felt”
This is basically Mark Goulston’s way of saying “seek first to understand,” but I like this language. It gets at the importance of making sure that we get to the place where the person we are listening to BELIEVES we understand them. We want either their internal monologue, or better yet their outward words, to say: she really gets where I’m coming from on this. Remember, you don’t need to agree with the other person in order for them to feel understood or “feel felt.”

Be more “interested” than “interesting”
Most of us probably would like to audition for the Dos Equis commercial for being the most interesting person alive. You’re not. And neither am I. But great listeners are genuinely interested and curious about the person who is speaking to them. People will be far more interested and willing to understand you (and even your different point of view) if you can master this important listening skill.

Help people exhale, emotionally and mentally
I’ve shared this story with a few of LEAD 365 cohorts. It’s the true story of my friend. His spouse came to him one day and said: “I feel hesitant to tell you this, but I’m going to say it anyway.” When she finished, my friend immediately told her the three things she did wrong and four things she could do about it. The only saving grace in the whole conversation was that afterward he asked her: “what made you hesitant to come to me?” To which she answered: “I was afraid you were going to do what you always do: tell me three things I did wrong and give advice on four things I ought to do about it.”

Whether you read the book or are simply reminded of some best practices, keep working on your high impact listening. Break the power of any dysfunctional living system you’re in. Rediscover why we call it HIGH IMPACT listening. 

Lead on!

Image by avrene. Used under CC by 2.0 license.