Eight kinds of listening
Those that have read Manage Your Critic – From Overwhelm to Clarity in 7 steps you may remember that I talked about 7 kinds of listening. I was referring to the kinds of listening I had identified my clients had needed. When I continued to develop this concept of different kinds of listening, I started to be curious about what kinds of listening did I personally need, when I was going through change. Exploring it from my perspective and not the clients gave me new insights. Firstly, I discovered that there are 8 different kinds of listening and I wasn’t very good at some of them when others needed them from me. The more I observed the different kinds of listening, the more I learned how to adapt my listening but also how to ask for the kind of listening I needed. Since talking about this on stage I have had some very interesting conversations and I am sure there are even more. One person mentioned listening to sell and listening to manipulate where the person asks questions that are training your attention on what they want to talk about or what they want you to think. I believe it is important for us to remember that the way we listen to ourselves and each other can have a massive impact. It is my intention in this article to share the ones that make change easier so that you have choice and know what kind to ask for.
What I hope is that when you have this list you can ask people for the kind of listening you need and that will make it easier for people to help you and you can ask others what they need from you.
- Compassionate companion – they listen and demonstrate empathy and compassion for my plight or predicament, but they cannot really do anything other than listen. I feel less alone because I have been heard and not judged. It seems to help if they share some words of comfort such as that is tough or that is awful. I don’t do well at this point if they try to make me feel better. I just want to express how I feel in this moment. I find it comforting to tell someone if I am ashamed of a thought of feeling I have had; in the telling I am able to let it go so long as they don’t judge me. They don’t ask questions and they don’t feel sorry for me they are somehow just able to honour and witness what is with no need to move me away from or through what is happening.
- Counsellor; someone that I can talk to outside of my own family or work network. This is a shame free connection where I can share thoughts and feelings that I know won’t be easy for others to hear. It is usually about the past and it is often about what is not working. It can be about pain or upset. There are times in my life when the only words I had to express my experience was that I wanted to die. I know that is not easy for others to hear and I know it is not true so it feels pointless to say out loud and yet it is and was my reality. To not express it felt dishonest and was not honouring of where I was. I am very fortunate to have had this awareness and I could reassure my husband that I would not take my own life; but I did not to be able to express how I ‘really’ felt with the only words I could find in the moment. I knew the question I needed was and when you die then what happens and so he asked me it. I discovered that had died it meant to me that I would not have to wake up tomorrow and that I would not have to feel the intense pain of feeling a failure.
- Coaching; this is when I want to be solution and strength focused. I want to be asked questions that train my attention on what I want and what is working without giving me any suggestions or opinions. In the example above I now know what I want to be able to wake up and not feeling the pain of failure. I have an outcome in fact I want to die was an outcome but not one I felt comfortable telling many people and I probably would not have told my husband if I didn’t feel we had the resources to change my focus. Coaching is a form of questioning that trains the persons attention on what they want. It can be professional and trained listener and sometimes it is family, friends, co-workers or your boos. Unlike friends though a coach will hold me accountable and remind me over time what I said I wanted. They will track any progress being made and they will ask the next time I meet them what happened. In the example; I was then asked: “And when I don’t feel the pain of failure that is like what?” and the answer was “That is like I am the best mum I can be and I am confident that I am show unconditional love.”
- Clean Language Facilitator; the facilitator listens and asks me what I would like to have happen and repeats back my words exactly and my gestures whilst training my attention to notice my patterns and processes. I don’t need a goal or for it to be future focused although often it is. I can decide what I want to talk about and I am invited to notice what changes if anything. I can explore the less tangible and visible such as emotions and feelings as well as the more logical and practical things. It is a space I am guaranteed to feel it is okay for me to be me. I can say what I am thinking and feeling safe in the knowledge it or I won’t be judged. The purpose is for me to listen to myself and to gain understanding of how I do me. A Clean Language Facilitator can give me space and time to explore my own models of the world; my metaphors that make sense of my experience; whilst enabling me to identify if I want anything to change. It is about understanding how I do me on a much more intricate level.
- Mentor: someone that has experience with the problem or challenge I face that can guide me and make suggestions after listening to me. When I tell them how I am feeling and what I am stuck with they will have experienced it before and can reassure me that this is part of the process and can give me some ideas of things to try. They are not attached to me taking their advice and they share to give me another insight that can help me decide on something else to try.
- Decision Maker; sometimes I need the input of others to make an informed decision. A mentor can help in this way but also when I make decisions that will impact others it is good for me to share my thinking and have their input. I am talking to find out how my idea impacts them and how it makes them feel. I need them to listen and tell me what they think and or want. It took me sometimes to understand not every processes and makes sense of the world as quickly as I do and I had to learn to present things in different ways and give them the time they needed to respond.
- Delegating listening; sometimes I need a task done and I need them to listen to me and then physically take the problem/task away. There is nothing more frustrating than sharing a problem and they listen with all the compassion of the compassionate companion but then leave and you still have to ‘do’ something when what you really wanted was for them to take on the problem and sort it for you. I hate it when I want I talk with the purpose of delegating and the person starts telling me what I could do. I don’t want to do anything, I want them to do it. I have come to understand that often I need to do something to hand the task over and that is okay, but I really don’t want them to teach me how to do it for myself. I don’t want to solve it; what I want is to know is can they.
- Cheerleader; sometimes I need someone to listen and even when I am at my worst they can remember from the past my strengths and give me feedback that reminds me of how far I have come. They don’t get bogged down in the problem or trying to help me solve it because they don’t see it as a problem. I need someone that can catch me getting it right; to see good in me when I cannot and to hold my attention on what is working. I need to hear the positive impact I have on others to counteract any criticism I am giving myself through the process. Sometimes I just lose sight of how wonderful I am; and to have someone say something nice outside of me makes me tingle with joy inside.
The Listening Detective: is who I have become. I have come to realise that sometimes my clients need a compassionate companion and sometimes they need coaching and sometimes they need Clean Language facilitation and sometimes they need a mentor or cheerleader. We chat with the purpose of working in partnership to understand what kind of listening works for them and of course it changed. Whilst most of the time I am a Clean Language facilitator I am also a mentor. I am good at articulating my experience and sharing my inside stories I have found can help others access their wisdom within.
Take a moment to consider what kind of listening you want and need.
When you are listening to someone, listening for you is like what?
When someone is listening to you and it works for you, that is like what?
What do you know now about listening?
What difference does knowing that make? If any?
If these are questions you are interesting in exploring then check out The Do Delegate or Ditch Academy. Do Delegate or Ditch Academy – (stepbysteplistening.com)