I am not too sure why I remain so shocked as to the general competency level of most people to be excellent listeners. In fact, most of the time, it is pretty shocking. We are not naturally good listeners. Most times, our listening ability is summarized in waiting for someone to stop talking so we can jump and talk about our own experiences, problems, fears and so on. While the person is speaking, instead of paying attention to what is being said, our minds are looking for similar situations that we might have been through. At this point, most of what the person said is lost in this process. Although filled with good intentions, this faulty listening process is completely counter-productive since no message is sent. You are not listening to the other, and the other is most probably not listening to you as well.
A teacher I am working with recently acknowledged that in fact he just couldn’t stop “listening to fix”. He is always trying to find the solution; move on the issue; work out what he can do to help. Of course, this natural desire to problem solve and help others was probably the key driver in him becoming a teacher in the first place. He is now becoming more conscious of what he is listening to. His first thoughts run through a list of some of the unconscious filters that he may be exhibiting…
I’ve done something wrong.
I need to fix you.
I need to judge you.
Moving from the diagnostic (selective listening, filtered hearing and responding) to attentive listening (active attending, hearing, reflecting) was a new skill to practise. It was also the part that the very same teacher had found so useful when receiving coaching himself.
‘Imagine someone listening, not only to your words but also to what’s behind them…’ Whitworth et al. 1998