I have been thinking a lot about what it means to really listen to someone. A few ideas came to me in a book I am reading called “Get Out of Your Own Way” by Robert Cooper. Mr. Cooper has a neuroscience background and talks about the importance of really listening with empathy. However, our brains can really get in the way by constantly trying to think about the next brilliant thing to say in the middle of a conversation. I gained some more clarity on this subject during a run today so thought I would share.
Sometimes a thought comes to mind when I am listening to someone else, and I just can’t wait to tell them about my “amazing” thought. Like it will be something profound :). Or I am at a meeting and I am just waiting for the other person to finish their point, so I can get my point of view in. This is not listening at all let alone with empathy. It is my ego just waiting to get acknowledgement. And so often when this happens I drift off and follow that thought which completely takes my attention away from the person. And before long I have no idea what the other person is saying.
So when I hear the phrase “listen with empathy” I like to think of what we say at the Center for Intentional Leadership which is “be interested, not be interesting.” I try to connect with a purposeful goal like co-creating a context of authenticity. This means I have to stay out of my head when listening. I try to catch myself when that “brilliant” thought comes to mind, notice it and then make sure I maintain focus on what the other person is telling me. Then I can actually remember what they tell me or respond appropriately.
It sure feels great to me when someone is listening and really hearing what I am saying. It absolutely shows they care. So that is something I am very interested in doing for others. It takes work to not let my brain or ego take over in these situations, but it sure means a lot to me to give people the space to open up. And that won’t happen if I am not in the moment with them or lost in my thoughts. Have a great week.