Timestamps for Listening Skills Part III:
1:34— It’s Not The Skills, It’s The Intention
3:27— The Most Curious People
5:09— “I Want To Connect”
7:55— “If You Want”
14:23— Almost Nose To Nose
16:31— Negotiate Through Technology
19:14— “I See A Brilliant Future”
23:18— Three Signals
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Christian: This goes back to one of the things that we had been talking about earlier, and that is I can be silent for 47 minutes and then the client will walk out saying “Wow that was the most incredible counseling session I’ve ever had.” Does that mean that I have more skills or technical skills like you know sit there with your body posturing. Don’t hold your arms, don’t cross your legs. No look at the person in the eyes. I mean those are all really good things. right?
Christian: Reframe or restate. Those are all things that I do believe are really important. But what you just said there is incredibly powerful. And this really will influence as you said the outcome and the process and the emotional connection from the messenger and that is just listening.
Christian: Just listening and it’s not the skills, it’s the intention you know one of the things that I had written down here is that when you enter into a conversation. Entering to the conversation truly interested. I am a curious person by nature.
So when you say something, I want to know, like tell me more about it. I mean I’ve listened to some of the most boring people that has ever graced this rock floating through space at just the way it’s been like. That was fascinating.
William: Why are they grazing? That’s what I want to know. Why are they grazing.
Christian: Oh Grazing? Did that sound grazing? I said gracing.
William: Oh gracing. I was imaging this really boring person like bent over like eating grass. I could see [laughing] cows need therapy too. It’s like equine therapy, but it would be, what, bovine therapy.
Christian: You know there are individuals who I know would really benefit from. So being truly interested in your bovine friend. [laughing] The messages that they have to say [laughing]
William: Well they’re grazing.
Christian: So tell me how does that piece of hay taste? I see you’ve moved to a new patch. [laughing] Interesting.
So the other thing is that suit not only do you want to be truly interested or intrigued I mean you want to be a curious person. I mean I learned the most from my kids and the children around because they are just the most curious people that have grazed the dessert and they do graze through my refrigerator quite equitably. But what I’ve observed is that people get to a point where they just know everything and then they stop being curious and then the moment they’re no longer curious the conversation just ends. You know you can’t say anything to them because “I already know.” “I already know.”
So being truly interested and curious like how do you see this? How are you experiencing this particular event? I mean really I mean I earlier I mentioned something very personal, and I would love to have a conversation where I was able to. So tell me, what was your experience in that conference call really like? I want to know I just be totally honest. And then the other attribute that really contributes to what you were talking about in terms of the power. This isn’t just like technical like here Step A B and C but the characteristic or the attributes of the individual as being genuinely concerned about receiving the message and about the person whether you really dislike the person or not you want to be genuinely concerned.
William: You know, it will if the conversation is worth having it’s worth listening. And I’m not saying that it’s always worth having a conversation with someone but if you are going to enter in, to influence somebody if you’re going to enter into the process of engaging in conversation you need to think about how you going to do that in those first three steps are critical. So, the four steps let’s review the steps so quick so, we’ve got empty your cup, you’ve got create a good emotional state inside of yourself. And sometimes that’s as simple for me as looking at the other person or imagining the person, and just thinking I want to connect I’m fully present and that’s enough to do it. Sometimes I need to go through a little ritual like a little breath focus ritual or something to ground my energy into the present moment, and if I’m in a session with a client and I feel our energies wandering I’ll actually do that with a client so let’s spend a minute just getting fully present so that we can be really totally focused in on what’s going on here. And then we will just be quiet we closed our eyes, focus on a breath, and then come back with full attention. And that’s been really useful for me. I’ve done that at home as well although, I probably am more consistent about doing it in the office.
Now the last step into listening is listening skills, and the beauty is that there are just incredible skills that have been developed some of which are so powerful that there are certain groups that have wanted to limit the training of these skills because they only professional should have these skills in their hands.
And yet I think, all of us are professionals, all of us have children. All of us have spouses. All of us you know are in business. All of us have products or services that we represent in one-way shape or form even if it’s just us, in our services to our boss. And so what are some of the major listening skills and how can they be used? The first thing that you already touched on is the use of your body. Listening has more to do than just listening to words.
Meaning when someone is sending communication a fraction of the meaning that they’re communicating actually happens with the words they speak. The large majority of the meaning of a phrase is going to come in the body posture, and in the voice tone of the person use it. I mean, just listening right now on the radio listen to the difference in this phrase I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.
I love you, you know I love you.
You ever heard someone say that. But I mean seriously it’s like for those of you that are home you could probably think of another 15 ways to communicate that phrase. So if all I was doing was just listening to the words then, I’m missing the vast majority of that conversation, I was talking to a friend a single friend, and he was out at a dance and you’ve just taken this girl out on a first date, and he had gone doing dancing, and there was another girl there, but he can know he kind of like well he didn’t want to just ditches date so he went in and he said to her is it okay if I go dance with my other friend. Well, she leaned back she crossed her arms. Her eyes narrowed, and she looked at him and said If you want. Just like that. He was like. He was a real literal guy. Now, his brain registered it later. Right? And at the moment, he’s like oh she thinks it’s okay. Right? So he went, and he went and danced some other girl it wasn’t like anything crazy, but he danced, and then he came back, and she was gone.
And he’s like what happened? And then he was wracking his brain he’s talking to his body, and his body was like dude didn’t you see her like shoot laser beams and tear with their eyes? Right. And so one of the key listening skills is just to remember you’ve got to listen with your eyes.
You’ve got to listen with your ears, but not just to the words you’ve got to listen to the inflections that people use. When they say it, Are they saying it with certainty or are they seeing it with doubt? Are they seeing it with hate? What’s the emotion behind the phrase? And all of that is perceived with the eyes and with the ears as you’re tuning into voice tone. Now, if you’re a guy. This is like a revelation like I mean most guys are literally not most guys, but a lot of guys are literal listeners right. The engineer might you know like she said you know she said she didn’t want me to surprise her. Well yeah, that’s what she said with her mouth. Right. Like everything else that she’s been doing for like three months tells you that she wants you to surprise her. Yeah. You mean like really? How do I hear that? And see that what you got to start opening your eyes and paying attention. And part of that means taking your attention off of whatever internal world you’ve got going on and just putting it in your purse. If you start doing that you’ll start receiving just a tremendous lot more. So that’s the first real skill in a long listening workshop we might actually spend a lot of time talking about.
I think another second important part of the skill base that has nothing to do with being too technical is to mind that your use of space the way that you set up your space to listen, is going to influence the person’s feeling of safety and gosh without going into a lot of training you know a couple of tips. Probably most people are going to feel more comfortable with you off to one side or the other of them sitting directly across from someone sometimes, not always but sometimes can create a confrontational feel. You’ve got to gauge the person on that, and you can gauge it in their body language. Interestingly enough most people will have a preference as to which side you talk to them on. So some people respond much better on your right or your left. And whenever I teach a live event people are a lot of people are skeptical about this until I actually demonstrate it. And you can literally as you’re talking to somebody you’re going to naturally probably turn one side or the other of your body towards the person, and that happens to be the side that they’re comfortable on.
They’ll either stay where they’re at, or they might even leave them a little bit. If you sidle up to the side of somebody where they’re not comfortable while you’re standing. Almost always there is a micro lean away, or people will put their foot in between you and them to create space. And I’ve done this thousands of times now, as I’ve demonstrated as inconsistently this surprises people and this will surprise professionals who’ve spent my whole life thinking about it. I taught this once to a group of psychotherapists, and there was one psychotherapist that was really having a hard time communicating with one of his clients and all he did the next time she came in was sitting in a chair on the other side of her and held the session, and the session went completely differently. Right. By gauging the use of space so that there’s a use of space that’s there. There’s also distance things you know in the United States if a guy gets too close to a girl you know, unless they’re in an intimate relationship or something it’s like well it can create a weird energy.
Right. Or if you’re a real touchy person the other person is not a touchy person. It can create a real funny energy in the room. So your use of your body is going to influence and impact your ability to listen.
Christian: So if I can interject here you know, it’s really interesting because having studied Kung Fu which is a very close contact martial art and sticky hands. Right. And the preference that I mean I got to a point where I was very very comfortable in being just within inches of an individual.
William: Because I practice or something.
Christian: Yeah. I mean literally inches and in constantly being in contact with people. And I got to a point where a lot of my personal conversations I was very comfortable with that close proximity, but in retrospect, as I look back I can see when I even though I was comfortable. People would step back. Now let’s flash forward to now living in New York. It’s been a number of years since I had practiced Kung Fu. And so I had established a little bit different of a personal boundary, and now I am here in New York, and there’s an individual who was very comfortable at being super close. I mean shared a great message. I mean this individual was very friendly had no intention of making a pass an ear or anybody but was just very comfortable at standing very very close.
William: Too close? Inside of your personal space bubble. Yes. Here’s a here’s a good rule of thumb extend your hand directly out in front of you. You know fingertips pointing straight out, so it’s like your arms at a 90-degree angle to the floor and then lift your palm. So keeping your arm parallel to the floor raise your fingertips straight up. That’s about where most people’s personal space bubble goes to. Now if you’ve got two people packing we could Chris, and I were talking to each other as two guys here in the United States. Our bubbles would need to just barely be touching each other to stay in a good comfortable contact which means that if you talk if you’re a taller person you actually need to get people a little bit more space. That would mean that it’s like in your imagination you imagine that they have their arm extended and you have your arm extended, and your palms are not touching. If you’re right about there in most situations, you’re going to be pretty safe if it’s with the opposite gender, you may even want to add six or eight inches. Now that’s the U.S. That’s very different I had a friend from Europe, and he would come to have a conversation with me, and the normal parking range was about six inches over the nose, and so he would come up, and I wasn’t used to that. And it was like I would retract and he would follow me you know. And it was like this was like backwards dance. It was pretty crazy until finally I kind of breathed into him OK this is normal for him, and it’s like here we are talking almost nose to nose. It’s like I can catch his spit in my mouth. I know that’s probably aggressive.
You know I was going to say you know a good way to combat that would be just to go. This is back to my college. And he I mean he was married I was married. I mean there was no romantic interest this was a cultural difference and so culture to culture it’s going to be a little bit different. So you know one of the things that you can pay attention to is how do you know if somebody is uncomfortable with you.
It’s in a micro or a macro lean away. If they start to lean away from you or move back from you or if you see them fidgeting with their chair, and you know trying to move the chair into a different spot or something like that you’re probably not paying attention and minding your spacing is going to affect your ability to create that safe environment that’s going to help them open up to you.
Now a couple of other techniques that I think are really helpful in establishing you know listening skills. One is the idea of what I call the sacred Grunt. These are really words that aren’t words, or they’re little simple phrases. You know, somebody is talking, and you go wow. Mmm hmm uhhh. Right. I mean just little things. I mean it sounds funny. I mean it sounds funny with terminal other but like in a conversation if somebody says something impactful like wow no and then maybe even as if you were like a simple phrase like no kidding or on her right or whatever it happens to be that all these little nonverbal sounds like eek. Right?
All these little things that make the conversation go super helpful and these maybe more important than the words speak.
Christian: Well so that that’s actually some feedback that we got from some of the listeners out there is that when you when I first started this show together it would be one would be speaking, and there would be this lengthy almost a monologue and then it would be like okay now it’s your turn. We still do that, but some of the feedback was like hey look this is really good information, but it feels like monologue followed by a monologue followed by a monologue. But that wasn’t natural. We were just trying to learn how to negotiate through the technology. And yeah I mean that right there. I mean we now have this establish rapport we have this practice, and as a result, the listening to the show is a lot more comfortable it’s a lot smoother because we have those as you said the sacred grunt. You know I’m thinking of the cow grazing along. When I’m talking to it.
William: But it’s natural. It’s not a technic. It’s like what people do who are being present in a conversation. And you don’t have to use one sound if you could gills uncomfortable too. But there’s a way to acknowledge that the other person is speaking and that they have to be in you can do that verbally with a word, but a lot of times it’s not a word. It’s just like wooh, yeee. Right or whatever happens to be. Another technique that is really useful is an idea that has been described as reflective listening, and reflective listening basically has two different categories to it. It has a technique that involves the direct repetition of key words and phrases that the other person says are almost like parenting but not necessarily with the intention of mimicking. Mimicking is a different thing, mimicking will not get you anywhere. Right? But parent parenting or rekeying these key phrases is a way of acknowledging that you’ve heard what the other person says. So somebody says “I’m really hurt.” You might literally say back you’re hurt, or you’re really hurt, and the person can then has the space to either clarify or agree. There’s a bunch of reasons to do reflective listening, but it’s an incredibly powerful tool. Now sometimes it can get a little overbearing if all you’re doing is repeating exactly what the other person has to say. And so you can also mix and match with a little bit of paraphrase. Then you’ve got to be careful about paraphrasing.
And I’m going to give you my preference here with paraphrasing you just a moment, but paraphrasing is an incredibly powerful way to reflect. So let’s say somebody talks for a minute or two, and you haven’t really said much you can pause, and say so what you’re saying is, and then you summarize and maybe use a couple of key words, but then you’re just stating your own language. And that would be a way of also reflecting back the content to someone, and noticing whether or not they’re on the same page. If you do reflection, I think it’s important to reflect it back in the same type of languaging that they do. So for example, if somebody says I see a brilliant future, a bright white light that’s filling my life they’re in a very visual system when they’re when they’re talking. So if I was to paraphrase back, I would probably paraphrase back using a visual metaphor as well. Or if they were in their feelings I would say if somebody says I just really don’t feel like this is a good situation I would also reflect back in a feeling even if I was paraphrasing I reflect back in a feeling based system to match where they’re at. So I’ve seen people do this poorly. So, for example, a client comes into a new coach, and he says the coach is like I just don’t see a way out of this and he’s maybe looking up and his hands are open. He’s in a visual mode. And so if that therapist goes you don’t feel like there’s a way out or you feel lost. That might be too big a disconnect for the client.
No, it’s not that I don’t feel lost it’s I can’t see a way out. Now they might not respond to that, but a lot of people will react if you get to paraphrase too bad. So if you are paraphrasing, you’ve got to open up your eyes, and you’ve got to listen with your eyes and notice again. Are they getting tense? So those are a few techniques on an opening of the Christian to add to any of this.
But I also want to give you a couple of visual cues that I think are pretty important as you’re watching somebody three areas to watch eyes, mouth, hands. Eyes mouth and hands of the other person. So if I’m talking to somebody and all of a sudden they get squinty eyed on me you know what could that mean? I don’t know what that means but what could that mean? It could mean that they are having a hard time seeing what I’m saying? It could mean that they have a concern that’s come into their mind. It could mean that they have something they want to they want to ask me. So if I see squinty eyes I’m actually going to I’m going to pause, and I’m going to check in if I’m talking and I get squinty eyes I’m going pause. The second thing that I’m looking for is tight lips. If I’m talking to somebody and all of a sudden their lips get tense. Now you can be my attention and where I’m looking especially at the lower lip the way that, the lower lip shows up. Yeah. There’s any kind of tension in that lower lip. They got something they want to say, and I need to go out of talking mode, and I need to go into listening, or I need to do a check in at least. Maybe they’re just thinking, but there’s at least some energy of wanting to talk or speak, or maybe they have a thought, or they have a doubt or something like that. And I don’t know what that is, but I’ve got to do a check.
So it’s not like oh I see this is always what it means. It’s like if I see it, I’m probably going to pause and do check and I’m talking to a big group of people, and I see a lot of squinty eyes and tight lips. I know that I’ve got to do a check in with the group and figure out what’s going on. Man’s first thing that happens, typically if somebody has something to say in there and you’re not giving them space to say it is their lips will get tight, and their eyes will get Squinty the next thing that will happen is that their hands will go up towards their mouth. Now I might be on the chin, or it might go up to the lips. And typically the more badly that someone wants to say something the more they’re going to cover their mouth. It’s like they’re like you know if you see somebody with one hand completely over their mouth it’s like you’ve got to give this person a chance to speak because the next thing that will happen is they will totally disengage, and you’ll lose them. So if you’re talking to somebody and you see squinty eyes followed by a tight lip or a tight lipped followed by squinty eyes, and then you see a hand reach up to the mouth.
“For the love of holy its holy[?] stop talking”. And do a checking because you going to save yourself a lot of pain.
Christian: So I can just imagine what you look like as you’re practicing these observations in these skills as you’re driving down the road. [Laughing] You ever see me driving down the road see me doing this.
William: My little invisible person is over there with their arms crossed and their hand over their mouth. You know at the end there’s a lot of things on body posture that I don’t you know that may or may not be true but typically what I’m looking for is I’m looking for three signals that agree. And I’m also looking for changes, so you know if somebody comes in and they’ve got their arms crossed the whole session I don’t necessarily think that they’re like closed off but if I’m all of a sudden talking, and they’ve been really open in their gestures and all of a sudden they close off that probably is a signal to check in.
William: Yeah. So in terms of listening body posture, open gestures, uncrossed arms, open, you know, an uncrossed legs, eyebrows slightly raised. If you’re a woman, you can get away with the head tilt with the guy you can probably do a little minor head tilt, but it looks a little weird to tell that we see a lot of women tilt the head when they’re listening. And it’s a really open vulnerable signal, and it works pretty well. So those are some things to mind technique wise.