Have you ever watched the TV show,” Frasier?” Though it’s a comedy the way he starts his radio show with, “Hello…I’m listening,” you’ll hear the number one principle in relationships with anyone. Only after he’s listened does he dispense his advice to the caller. He reminds me that so often we say, “I’m listening,” but really, we’re not. We’re in our own thought processes. Have your ever experienced this? I have both as a listener and as the speaker.
The subtle, perhaps unconscious, thoughts are: (1) What does this have to do with me, (2) When he/she stops talking, I’ll tell them even a better story, and (3) He/she’s doing it all wrong and needs help, followed by, “Here’s what I would do…”.
During coaches’ training there were many things that changed my life. The ONE big idea that overrides the many lessons is the emphasis on listening…listening at a level that goes beyond hearing the words, beyond the book learning and beyond the advice-giving. What a life coach does is really hear what the person being coached is saying at an intuitive and global level. Only by listening can we help that person find their own ways to resolve their own problems, take action, and be accountable.
When I have a dilemma or when I need some brainstorming on something I want to do, I will call on my own coach. Together we look at different perspectives and create a plan of action. If I talk to a friend, I’ve usually gotten advice, most of which I never asked for. I don’t know about you, but often the advice received is something you already know. This always brings the question to my mind, “Does he/she believe I haven’t already thought of this?” Often we don’t want someone to give us a solution to a problem. Sometimes we just like to be heard.
This brings me to three ways you can help build better relationships with your clients and friends.
First: Focus. Pay attention! If a person is hurting or wants to discuss something, especially if they’re bareing their souls, this is not the time to solve a problem for them. Just listen. You don’t have to say anything. If you feel you must respond, try, “I’m listening,” or “I hear you.”
Second: Use empathy. This doesn’t mean saying, “I know how you feel,” because you really don’t. It’s better if you can mirror those feelings with rephrasing. For example, “I feel so confused!” Your answer might be, “You’re feeling pulled in all directions.” At this point, it doesn’t help to say, “This is what I would do…” or, “Have you tried…?”
Third: It’s okay to remain silent, to hug, if that’s what’s needed, or to ask, “Is there anything more you want to tell me?” or “Is there anything I can do?”
Listening, truly listening with heart and at a deeper level will enhance and your relationships with friends, family and customers. It will validate their feelings and you will know what they really want, not what you think they want.