Curious about curious listening? Here’s how to listen to hear better

by | Jan 25, 2017 | Featured blog post, Focus & meditation

I’ve been cooking an idea for some time and finally feel that it’s been marinated enough to share. Before I introduce you to it, let’s get some concepts out of the way.

Ever since I can remember, listening has been an often-referenced skill in building healthy teams and developing people. Then, listening got an upgrade and corporate trainers started touting the benefits of active listening. Ring a bell? For those of you new to this concept, it encourages the listener to repeat what he or she heard back to the person in his or her own words. The goal of active listening is to help keep the parties on the same page. But let’s face it: if it were really working, why is there still miscommunication and misunderstanding? There could be several reasons but at the core there’s one reason that’s always present: how we listen.

What went wrong?

While the other person is speaking, many of us shift into “response mode”. Instead of absorbing the words he or she is saying, we’re formulating a response in our head or focusing on how to recap what was just said and miss out on what’s being said.

We listen to respond rather than to absorb. When we do that, we miss out. #listening #productivity Click To Tweet

It’s not just a work issue. It’s at home, too

With our attention span plummeting to merely 8 seconds, the issue of hearing goes beyond the office walls. Divided attention is prevalent away from work, too.

The idea of “curious listening”

I’ve made up this term in the spirit of making listening less mechanic. By mechanic, I mean being on auto-pilot. It’s when you only take in the last few words the other person just said instead of the entire conversation or when you are thinking about actions to take while the other person is still talking. When we do that, our mind is not fully present in the conversation.

The word “curious” is intended to bring our full attention back into the dialogue. When we’re curious about something, we pay full attention to it because we genuinely want to find out more. We don’t have an agenda—other than learning as much as possible. We’re fully immersed in the topic and giving it our undivided attention.

When we listen curiously, we can notice things we’d otherwise miss. We can get to the bottom of issues more efficiently and come up with ideas that would otherwise escape us. Bonus point: people will come away with a better impression of us.

How do you know if you’re listening curiously?

Practice these 3 things to improve your listening skills:

  1. Are you swiping right other thoughts? Are you formulating a response in your head to what the other person is saying before they even finish? Or, are you focusing on one thing, and one thing only—the words of the other person? If the latter, then you’re swiping right other thoughts in your head and making room for the conversation.
  2. Are you tuning out other stimuli? Do you find yourself looking around, paying attention to other things or hearing other things besides what the person you’re conversing with is saying? Or, are you able to tune out everything else that’s going on around you? If the latter, you’re shutting out the stimuli you don’t need for your conversation.
  3. Are you aware of when you’re not in the moment? When you cultivate this awareness, you can stop the behavior. And when you fall out of the curious listening mode, you can get back into it. Without awareness, there’s no action.

We can all learn to listen better so that we can hear better. There’s no better time than the present to start. Are you curious?

Get in touch if you’d like to learn more about curious listening and our team services.

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Image: Kindel Media, Pexels


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