The Chinese characters that make up the verb "to listen" include ear, eyes, undivided attention and heart. What if when we listened we used our:
- Undivided attention
I envision a world where we truly listen, to each other and to ourselves. What do I see, hear, feel, and notice when I pay attention? When I focus on the speaker rather than my own opinion or what I plan to say next, what happens?
Jake, one of my clients at a company in Central Louisiana, told me that now that he is paying more attention to listening, he is actually learning more. He goes into a meeting deciding to listen and he gets more out of the meeting. He has set an intention to be a better listener and it is working for him.
Sally, shared in a coaching appointment that one of the people she supervises, Jake, has been complaining to other staff members and "stirring up trouble." I asked Sally if she had met with Jake in private to listen to what was going on for him. Sally said she had not.
When kids act out, often what they want is a few minutes of our undivided attention. When we focus fully on them for a few minutes, then they are content to go on their way, at least for a few more minutes.
My cat is the same way. When she sits in front of my computer screen, she is trying to tell me something. If I get annoyed and try to forcibly remove her, she may scratch my hand. If instead I talk to her and pet her for a couple of minutes, she is then content and moves out of my way.
So why don't we do the same thing at work with the people we supervise? What I hear from some clients, "They are adults. They shouldn't need to be stroked."
In fact, research shows that humans have a need to maintain status. David Rock, in his book Your Brain at Work writes, "An increase in status is one of the world's greatest feelings. Dopamine and serotonin levels go up, linked to feeling happier, and cortisol levels go down, a marker of lower stress."
Rock outlines the SCARF model which describes interpersonal rewards and threats that are important to the brain. SCARF stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness and when we can increase several of these elements in ourselves and others, we feel better and improve performance.
What Sally could try is to meet with Jake and really listen. Sally must be aware that just coming into the supervisor's office is going to set off a threat response, so Sally will want to put Jake at ease immediately. She might say something like, "I have been noticing that some of the staff don't seem happy, I want to get your perspective and ideas on what might be going on and what we can do about it."
Then Sally pauses and listens. She asks a few open-ended questions: "What else might be going on? Tell me more about that? What would make this situation better? How can I be of assistance?"
When we improve our ability to listen fully, we will be more aware of which of the SCARF elements require attention.
As we move into the New Year, how can you listen more fully? How will being a better listener make you and those around you happier? How can I help you?
Please share your reflections with me personally or on the Oak Communications Coaching and Consulting Facebook page. While you are on Facebook, please like my page!