The 7L's: Listen More
In my previous post I introduced my new framework, The 7L’s for Living a Wonderful Life:
L1-Love yourself more;
L3 Learn more;
L5-Let go more;
L6-Lounge more; and
L7-Love others more,
I spoke in some detail about the first L, Loving yourself more. Today, I want to talk about the power of Listening More. Listening well is not something I was gifted with. While my family finds it extremely humorous, I am embarrassed to share that in one of my report cards from middle school, one of my teachers, wrote this comment regarding my classroom behavior, “If Gregory could use his two ears like he uses his mouth, he might learn something!”
While I cannot recall for the life of me, reading this comment, or what reaction my parents had to it, I do vividly recall that I spent far more time in school talking and being a nuisance to my teachers than trying to learn. And I know I took some of those behaviors into the workplace as a young leader in the Army and eventually as a consultant and corporate executive. In one of my executive roles, I introduced an online leadership assessment for our organization’s leaders and thought it would be a good idea to be the first to go through the assessment. However, I was very disappointed when some of my peers, and those I led, gave me feedback that my listening skills were in need of some improvement. It hit me hard that, despite getting tough feedback on my listening when I was younger, I thought I had appropriately developed the skill of listening instead of it being a continued shortcoming.
My disappointment turned into a determination to get better and the good news is that I have made a decent living over the last 20 years from being a more active and highly attentive listener for my clients. However, I find, especially at home, that I can regress into less productive patterns and I am grateful that my wife does not put up with my “pretending to listen” antics. She will often ask, very clearly, “Do you really want to listen to me, because right now it seems that you are not.” Her directness helps keep me accountable and while it hurts, I am grateful for it.
The research is quite clear that listening, truly listening to another human being, helps connect us more deeply with others. Recently with a few clients, I noted that a lingering symptom from a recent cold was the hoarseness of my voice and it took much greater energy for me to speak than to listen. Oddly, it seemed that the quality of my conversations with my clients improved just through cutting back on my speaking. Because there was less talking on my part, it also gave me more space to remind myself to listen with minimal judgment in my head and to be more curious and open to what my clients were sharing with me. A key way to be curious and open is just by asking wide open and expansive questions. A client had shared some personal struggles with me and after being empathetic to what they have been experiencing, I asked what they were learning from these hard and challenging conditions. Their thoughtful answers were quite generative, and they appreciated the opportunity to reflect more deeply on their journey. Later on, in the day, I was not surprised to get a note indicating that they were quite appreciative of our time together.
A continuing theme in my work is that we tend to give our very best selves to those we work with. And sometimes, due to the pace, intensity and demands of our work, by the time we get home to our families, we are exhausted and, for some of us, have used up most of our words and energy. Yet, shouldn’t we save the best of ourselves for the family and friends that are closest to us? That certainly makes me think about all the years that I could have been a better listener and wonder what kind of impact I could have had on the quality of my friendships, my marriage, parenthood and life itself if I could have listened better. Well, I cannot do much about the past, but I can do something about my future and I just know that one of the best ways to create a better future filled with more love and meaningful living is to “Listen more!”
What can you do now to be a more active and attentive listener to those who matter the most in your life?