Listening well doesn’t mean just being quiet. It means tuning in. And there’s a difference. In other words, listening well means actively refocusing your mind away from your inner chatter and into the world around you. More than ever, to solve our complex problems, we are being asked to listen in to what’s emerging around us.
Hold up! You might say. I listen to my inner chatter all the time! It is ALWAYS informing me so I know what to say next. Why would I want to refocus my mind?
Exactly. Our inner chatter IS telling us all kinds of things all the time — about what to say next, about how hungry we are, about the email we still need to write. But we’re missing something huge. There is much more happening in the conversation that our inner self-talk and the words we exchange. The question is: are we so lost in the chatter we fail to notice what’s happening around us?
Listening extraordinarily means listening into your environment, your space around you. It informs you and even begins to solve complexities that couldn’t be addressed head on. For example, how often do we get flashes of insight when we’re out for a hike, or working in the yard? It could be on a tough decision we have been working through, or the next step to take on a project. When it happens, my experience has been that it often it feels like it’s obvious and nearly effortless to make happen. It is that clear.
The answers we seek to the most challenging of situations often don’t come from thinking about them. But about letting them come in. Sideways. This is a skill set that requires patience, silence, focus, an open and creative mindset, and a trust of our intuition.
How to develop this skill set for extraordinary listening to solve complex problems? Here are some ways to begin:
1. Refocus inner chatter. A full mind can’t hear anything. Develop an awareness of how you think about things.
2. Develop intuition & the confidence to follow it. Some of the best leaders have a keen sense of intuition, and trust it implicitly. They’ve learned to quiet their mind, so their intuition can inform them. Quieting our mind through meditation is helpful here.
3. Be okay with the unknown. Admittedly hard to do. We want to resolve the tension for something known and tangible. Being okay with not knowing is the beginning of listening differently.
4. Develop good questions that you don’t know the answer to. Extraordinary listening means extraordinary dialogue. Develop good questions. Seek to understand. Tune into the collective intelligence of the group for information to inform you.
5. Self-discipline to notice. Too easily we live in our harried world, with work demands, kids’ needs, and our own. Developing a practice to notice things around us takes discipline and patience. Meditation is a good way to begin here.