We recently heard someone say they only listen to news programs that agree with their point-of-view.   We confessed to him that it is not always easy to listen to programs that differ from our perspective, yet we do so to broaden our perspective.

He looked surprised and said, “I listen for assessment to determine if they agree with me.  I get too upset when I listen to those other programs.”  (He named several programs that he would never listen to.)

What do you listen for?

When you begin to “listen to how you listen”, you may notice tons of preconceptions and judgmental comments.   For example, even if you’re not parenting a teenager, imagine for a moment you say to your teenager: “Why can’t you put that phone down for just one night and spend time with your family?”

There’s a good chance you have a preconceived notion about what your teenager is going to say before they say it.  But what if you hear: “You are right.  I am spending way too much time with that phone and I would rather spend more time with you.”

Now imagine a work situation, where you and others are brainstorming creative ways to address a difficult situation.  The one “always critical naysayer” speaks up: “Um, I think that might work.”

You might not hear what your teenager or co-worker says because you were in an “already listening” mode, assuming you know what they will say before they say it.   You are listening for a negative response.

This type of listening—which is listening for assessment and to react—-too often feeds the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™.    It is so easy to view the person with the opinions or viewpoints you don’t agree with as a type of Persecutor, while listening to those with whom you agree or see as realistic—-as a Rescuer—-because they have the “right” answer.

In our own relationship, we have noticed that, when one of us falls into the Victim role, we listen for information to confirm our feelings of powerlessness.    If one of us is feeling persecuted by the other, we listen for information to confirm that the other one is blaming or trying to control us.  Once we fall into these DDT roles, we listen for information to validate the role we are playing.

Listening for possibility and new perspectives allows you to step into the TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) ™ roles of Creator, Challenger and Coach.  In this type of listening, your intent is to listen for learning and growth, which means you are open to new ideas and new information, regardless of whether you agree with what you hear.

This is much easier said than done!  The way you think about a subject or issue becomes your “truth.”  That truth gives you comfort and a sense of certainty.   Listening for information that might “rock your boat” can be challenging.

Learning to listen with an open mind and heart is worth the journey.   Here are a few suggestions to help you “listen to how you listen:”

  • Observe yourself taking notes in a meeting or program. This will help you become aware of what you gave your attention to, and enough of a priority to write it down.
  • Notice when you feel comfortable or safe in any situation. The comfort you feel will give you a clue about what you listened for that led you to feeling good.
  • Listen for your own words in your head and then listen to how they come out of your mouth. This will fine tune what you choose to say.

These exercises will support you in becoming aware of your preconceived judgments and broaden your ability to hear something new or different.  Such listening creates the conditions for innovation and creativity—-and our world could use a whole lot more listening to one another!