'Pure' listen your way to the top

 Oct 22, 2014

By the time you read this blog I would have celebrated my fifty-second birthday. I always take the opportunity on my special day to take an extended pause and reflect upon my life and the people that I love and that love me. I reflect upon how am I tracking, where have I been, where I am, and where am I going. I reflect upon important relationships, what to start doing, what to stop doing and what to continue to do in these relationships to maintain them and make them better. I also review what key professional skills have got me to where I am today, and without doubt the number one professional skill that has fueled my limited success is my learned ability to practice ‘pure’ listening. Here’s how and why ‘pure’ listening will always be the most important professional and personal skill in my book. I started my working career in Australia on the 5.3.1982, as a sales cadet, twelve months later I scorched my way to becoming a salesperson. I soon learnt the more I listened to my customers the more they would buy from me, and the more they bought from me the more commission I would make. This was like a milkshake made in heaven, talk less, listen more, understand more, and earn heaps more commission, yummy. However, too much commission is bad for the soul as are the working hours in retail. So I decided to say goodbye to sizable commission cheques, working late nights and weekends in December 1991. Goodbye retail, hello telecommunications. After a short working stint in Japan, I joined Telstra on my thirtieth birthday, 31.8.1992. I transferred my listening skills into my new role(s) and I soon moved up the rigid ranks of a great telecommunications company. Before I said goodbye to the BIG T in June 2000, I was conducting induction programs for Telstra Executives. Goodbye telecommunications, hello business software. I joined Siebel in July 2000 and again ‘listened’ my way to the position of Education Practice Manager in 2003 based in Singapore. My time with Siebel was hugely rewarding, I got to work in five countries, live in Singapore, meet a ton of great people and I developed a raft of long lasting relationships. Now of course I bought other professional skills to the table, but I am convinced it was my listening skills that kept my career moving in the right direction. Here’s a key question to reflect upon; what effect will pure ‘listening’ to others and yourself have on your vocational aspirations, workplace relationships, and relationships with your loved ones? For now though I want to share with you a ‘pure’ listening framework that I came across in 2006. I have included my own thoughts and actions within the framework. I hope you take something away from it. In no particular order:
  • Listen without negatively judging; don’t judge the colour, creed, culture, gender, age etc. of the person or people you are listening to. The moment you judge, you start to make assumptions, which clouds your ability to demonstrate ‘pure’ listening. If you negatively judge then you will be negatively judged.
  • Listen with everything. With your left brain and your right brain, equally. Open your heart, and use engaging body language throughout the interaction(s). Don’t think solutions.
  • Listen reflectively; put yourself in the shoes of the person or people you are listening to. Walk in their shoes, walk their path, immerse yourself in their interests. Don’t listen from your position.
  • Listen first, clarify second. Try not to interrupt the speaker, let them finish, wait until they have truly finished speaking, before you speak. Interrupting the speaker takes them off-track; it stops their ‘flow’. Try to understand ‘holistically’ before clarifying the speaker’s message. Don’t be curious too early, curiosity killed the cat.
  • Listen first, summarise last. Briefly restate the core themes raised by the speaker(s). Summarising helps the speaker(s) hear their key themes again, and it confirms your grasp of their viewpoints. Summarising does not mean you agree or disagree with the speaker(s) it merely allows you to close the loop before sharing. Don’t share too early, then it becomes about you and if you’re talking you’re not listening which means you’re not learning.
  • Listen before sharing. Ensure you contribute to the conversation; you are an activity party with your own thoughts and feelings. Just remember though that ‘pure’ listening is based on understanding the speaker(s) first and being understood second. Don’t share for too long, become the listener again as soon as you can; this way you’ll learn more and that’s gold.
Practice makes perfect. So make a decision to commitment to becoming a ‘pure’ listener and then practice it obsessively. If you truly commit to the art of ‘pure’ listening every aspect of your life will head north and stay north. To learn more about ‘pure’ listening and other key communication skills take a look at New Horizon's range of Professional Development courses. Take good care and as always ‘stay’ grateful.

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About the Author:

Stan Thomas  

Stan has been working in a professional training capacity for over 15 years and possesses a wealth of knowledge in the areas of adult education gained through both formal study and practical training delivery both nationally and internationally. As the Professional Development Manager for New Horizons Melbourne, Stan is responsible for the delivery, quality control and enhancement of existing and new programs at New Horizons.

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