Unlock the Power of Intentional Listening: Balancing Strengths and Challenges
Some days, my head hurts from listening. It's more a feeling of exhaustion than discomfort. I reach a point where I know I need a reset.
I'll bet you know exactly what I mean… because being a good listener is hard work. For all of us.
Intentional listening requires a lot of cognitive work.
It involves consciously setting aside your natural, default listening mode and focusing your full attention on the other person.
Your default listening mode is directly tied to your Perceptual Style. We naturally hear – and listen for – what we think is important and what validates our way of seeing the world. For example:
Methods values facts and logic, so they naturally listen for facts and rationale.
Activity values experience, so they listen for relatable points of interest they can engage with.
Goals values problem-solving, so they listen for the bottom line and problems they can solve.
Flow values connection, so they listen for commonalities they can relate to.
Adjustments values complete information with richly textured details, so they listen for details and contextual patterns.
Vision values opportunities and potential, so they listen for chances to impact and influence.
Intentional listening is a learned behavior that requires practice and concentration.
There are seven core intentional listening skills, and no one Perceptual Style is naturally gifted in all seven. On the contrary, every Perceptual Style finds only two or three of these core skills easy to do; the rest require more concentration and conscious intention, even with practice:
Attention: Imagine pouring your heart out to someone, sharing your thoughts and feelings, only to notice their mind wandering or their eyes glued to their phone. How would that make you feel? Attention is recognizing the importance of being fully present and attentive when the other person is speaking. It's putting away distractions and giving the speaker your undivided attention, making the speaker feel valued and respected.
Patience: the ability to remain calm and a willingness to give others time and space. It's understanding that it may take someone time to express their thoughts fully, and interrupting can hinder the flow of communication. Patience creates a safe space for open and honest dialogue.
Suppressed Judgment: consciously restraining or holding back your immediate tendency to form opinions or evaluations about something or someone. It involves temporarily setting aside preconceived notions or biases to allow for a more open-minded perspective.
Empathy: the capacity to understand and share the feelings, thoughts, or experiences of another person. It involves stepping into someone else's shoes, recognizing their emotions, and responding with compassion and understanding. Empathy builds trust.
Relinquished Ego: consciously setting aside personal desires, the need for recognition, or attachment to your own viewpoint. It's resisting the urge to judge or dismiss what's being said and, instead, being willing to explore different viewpoints, even if you don't agree with them. This fosters productive discussions and encourages others to share their thoughts openly.
Curiosity: asking relevant clarifying questions, demonstrating engagement in the conversation, and a genuine interest in understanding the other person's perspective. Curiosity helps prevent misunderstandings and allows for deeper exploration of the topic.
Thoughtful Response: involves taking time to consider and craft a well-considered, respectful, and considerate reply. It typically reflects careful thinking and consideration of the context and the feelings and needs of others involved. It's acknowledging and validating the other person's thoughts and feelings and avoiding unsolicited advice.
My guess is you were able to quickly identify which of the seven core skills are easiest for you and which require more effort and concentration!
It's important to recognize that, like any acquired skill set, you can master intentional listening.
While every Perceptual Style has natural strengths related to some of the core skills of intentional listening, others are acquired. And acquired skills take more energy and focus. So, it's important to recognize when you need a break.
When I start to feel my energy around intentional listening ebb, I give my brain a chance to relax a bit – I go for a walk, meditate for a few minutes, or do a chore that requires minimal concentration to allow my brain some time to re-energize.
Intentional listening is hard work. But it's worth the effort. It's an important tool for creating solid relationships, resolving conflict, effective collaboration, and much more.
Begin your journey toward becoming a better intentional listener today!
Look for opportunities to practice the core skills in your daily interactions. Take breaks when needed to recharge your mental energy.
Remember, the effort you put into intentional listening will pay off in stronger relationships, improved communication, and a deeper understanding of those around you.
Please share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below.
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About Lynda-Ross Vega
Lynda-Ross Vega is a partner at Vega Behavioral Consulting, Ltd. She specializes in helping corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, and individuals with interpersonal communications, team dynamics, personal development, and navigating change. Lynda-Ross is co-creator of Perceptual Style Theory, a revolutionary behavioral psychology theory and assessment system that teaches people how to unleash their natural strengths and build the life and career they dream of. For free information on how to succeed in business and in life doing more of what you do best, visit https://www.YourTalentAdvantage.com.
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