What you listen for, determines what you get from your conversations.
Too often, we listen in a casual or unfocused way and come away with little. We often find ourselves listening to our own thoughts and internal chatter instead of to what the person is saying. Let’s examine a few ways you can get more by listening for more.
Listening for the greatness in others.
A characteristic that powerful people possess is the ability to empower others to be their best. This is the ability to see things in others that they do not yet see clearly in themselves while creating the space for them to recognize this potential and rise to the challenge. It’s about seeing others as great without any attachment that they live up to your expectations.
We instead, typically listen from our opinions and judgments. Listening this way filters out what is actually said and impacts what we are able to hear. How we see others – as powerful or ineffective, intelligent or slow-witted, insightful or with little to contribute – has everything to do with what we get from conversations with them. When we hold others as great we empower them to become so. Getting the most out of others – our spouses, families, friends, co-workers, employees etc. – is made more likely if we consider them to have the potential to be greater than they see themselves.
This is the Pygmalion effect. By listening to people as though they already are magnificent, those positive qualities we expect to see in them readily show up. As we champion them to excel, they become aware of possibilities in themselves they did not previously see. Listening to others routinely in this way enables them to gain confidence and strength until they see themselves as powerfully capable of producing whatever effect they desire.
You have the gift to empower everyone who comes into your life. Likewise, everyone has the same gift to contribute to you. Interact with others with the expectation that they have come to receive this gift of empowerment from you.
Your job is to discover what that looks like.
Through your listening to contribute to others, they give the greatest gift possible back to you. They have supported you to become the person you have chosen to be on purpose.
Listening for what others might contribute to you:
If you enter into each conversation expecting to hear something of value you can utilize, you will likely come away with that very thing. While generating this listening is easy with someone you consider to be powerful or insightful, it will require returning yourself to your commitment to listen with a positive expectation when his or her speaking does not reflect this power.
For example, if you typically listen to others in an impatient way – hurry up and get to the point – you will need to remind yourself of your commitment to stay present in a conversation with a slow and deliberate speaker. Remember, someone’s style of speaking may have little to do with what you can garner from your conversation.
Listening for what is important to others:
By putting yourself in the other person’s world and developing an appreciation for his or her values and concerns, it is much easier to understand why they think, speak and act the way they do.
Misunderstandings that might have resulted in confrontation or lack of affinity are replaced with an empathy that allows for exploration of common ground. When you can hear the commitments of others, you act with a compassion that results from your interest in what it’s like for them to be who they are.
Listening with something at stake:
What we get from a conversation is often a function of what we have at stake. To illustrate this point, contrast how you typically listen to pre-flight safety instructions given by a flight attendant before take off. If you are like the rest of us, you’re probably not really paying attention to what is said. You’re probably either reading or distracted, figuring the chances of the plane crashing are slim to none. Besides, you’ve heard it all so many times before!
Compare this to a situation where, halfway through the flight, the attendant announces that the engines have failed and the plane is going down. With your life at stake, you listen to the instructions like you have never listened before. Your listening is directly related to what you are listening for.
To gain the maximum amount from every conversation, listen from the viewpoint that everyone has something to share that is of great value.
Your intent is to get it regardless of who the person is, and how powerful you consider him to be, no matter what his style of speaking.
Listening for value in EVERY conversation will provide you with unending insights that you would not get from listening with less at stake.
Listening for the good intentions of others:
Another valuable listening, involves coming from the assumption that everyone operates from what they consider to be good intentions. I am NOT saying that this is necessarily true. It is simply an empowering interpretation to support you in your relationships. This can be particularly valuable when the evidence strongly suggests the contrary.
A highly controversial, extreme example is to consider that someone as evil and deranged as Adolph Hitler operated from what was to him the best of intentions. This is not to condone his horrible actions. It is merely to illustrate a point. When you step into another person’s world and attempt to see things as they do, it is
possible to imagine that they have acted from good intentions.
Listening in this way allows you to come up with an interpretation that supports the possibility of your relationship with the person. This perspective may support you at times and perhaps not at other times. It is entirely up to you to use as just another tool in your toolbox to maximize your effectiveness with others.
Listening For the Greatness In Others
1 For the next 30 days, practice any or all of the following listening styles:
> To empower others to realize their greatness
>To hear how they might contribute value to you
>To appreciate their commitments and concerns and what it’s like to be them. With something significant at stake (perhaps your relationship with the other person)
>To hear the good intentions of the other person
2 In your journal, note any insights or possibilities that were created by listening to others in these ways.
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