In both your personal and professional life active listening is an important skill to have. There are various situations in which I train people to be skilful listeners. I teach them how to listen if they are taking minutes, if they are supervising, mentoring, encouraging or even trying to improve a stressful situation.
What Stops Us From Active Listening?
There are many things that can stop us from truly listening, one of these inhibitors to active listening is our biases. Biases can present themselves in two ways. The first way we demonstrate a bias is when we decide that we already know about the issue and have enough information about it, therefore we don’t need to listen to what the other person is saying. We display a rigid mindset. The second way to exhibit a bias is to judge people when they come into our space. We decide that we know in advance what the person is going to say based on their age, looks, race and gender. We have passed judgement and dismissed what they have to say based on our belief of who they are, thus displaying a judgemental mindset.
Challenge Your Biases
A good way to turn things around is to challenge your mindset and your biases. Buddhist philosophy teaches about giving up our judgemental predispositions. In order to see things without bias and hear things without bias, we need to increase our awareness about our tendencies to judge, consciously detach ourselves from the situation and avoid passing judgement. For example, a salesperson who has an appointment with a person may decide that they know exactly what the person needs and what product they are going to sell to their potential client without actually listening to the needs of the client. Very often we make assumptions before we bother to listen to others and ask questions to understand more about the situation.
Park Your Judgement At The Door
When we pass judgement based on our biases we limit our own opportunities. I have been at workshops and seminars where I see someone get up on a stage to speak and I find myself judging them based on the way they dress, speak or the topic they are discussing. We all have a predisposition to judge. This is where I force myself to park those thoughts away and listen with intention. A great coach I know once said that you are not being asked to dismiss or abandon your beliefs. You are being asked to just leave them at the door. Park them there and enter with an unbiased mind. At the end of the day, you can pick them back up if you really want to. You don’t have to abandon them, just set them aside and let them rest for a moment. This is a really powerful behaviour as it enables you to truly listen.
How Does It Help?
Parking your biases at the door empowers you, helps you get information and gives you the opportunity to learn something new. You have the choice to agree with completely, partially or not at all with what the person is sharing with you after having carefully listened to and considered their point of view. Even if you don’t take on board what that person is saying, it still informs your beliefs. It allows you to decide with conviction and proof that your beliefs are right. Your beliefs become stronger and you are able to dismiss the contrary from an informed position. Parking your beliefs enables you to make an informed decision around your beliefs. You can either dismiss your beliefs and take on something new or strengthen what you currently believe in. You can develop a flexible mindset.
Dealing with a judgemental predisposition can be difficult and challenging for me too, I have to check myself and ensure that I park my beliefs at the door. I remind myself to give people, theories, and information given to me, a chance before passing judgement. I park it and carefully listen. I encourage you to do the same, detach from the situation, observe what is being said, shared, or happening in front of you. See it for what it is and then make decisions regarding your beliefs.
- Park your beliefs at the door
- Listen without bias
- Detach from the situation
- Pass judgement
- Make Assumptions with complete information
- Let bias limit your opportunities
If you feel you are getting in the way of your own success, why not book a strategy session to move beyond this.