We heard from several people that last week’s essay helped them gain insight into how they listen—-or don’t listen.  This week we are excited to share our favorite listening exercise we use in live seminars.  People tell us the insights they gain from this exercise literally change their relationships for good.

We begin the exercise by dividing the group into pairs.  The first person is instructed to describe their dream vacation to their partner, who listens in “me-centered” listening. Me-centered listening is characterized by superficial listening, redirecting the conversation away from the speaker to themselves, becoming distracted or multitasking, (many people start texting and pretend they are listening), poor eye contact or even criticizing the person’s choice of a dream vacation.

After two minutes, we debrief the exercise and ask people to describe their experience when the other person exhibited me-centered listening.  Here are a few examples of what we hear:

“I felt frustrated, even angry, and wondered why I was wasting my time and theirs.  I lost trust in the other person because it was clear they didn’t care about me.  Why should I offer any details about my dream vacation?  They didn’t care.  I couldn’t wait until you stopped the exercise.”

This exercise demonstrates how me-centered listening is a recipe for the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™.  People felt victimized by the persecuting person who wasn’t listening, so they looked to us to Rescue them by stopping the exercise!

There’s another way to listen that can change the way you interact with people.  It is called “other-centered” listening.  The person listening is asked to give their full attention to the other, listen with curiosity and acceptance, while making eye contact.  This is a powerful and empowering way to connect with others by simply being present and curious to what they want to share.

Here’s what people say when their partner listened with other-centered listening:

“I wanted to share more because I felt so heard and seen.  As I talked, I started to believe my dream vacation was possible.  I never really felt that before—it’s always been just a dream.  I am going to start planning it now!  I felt their trust and how much they cared about me.  It was such an easy conversation.  I want to talk with them more, about almost anything.”

After this round, we lose control of the room.  People start hugging, laughing and often there are tears.   The authentic connection is very deep, and in only two minutes!

Leaders say they don’t have time to listen because the pace of work is so frantic, yet in two minutes, people say a lasting and trusting connection changes everything.  What happens in other-centered listening that has such a positive impact in those few moments?

When someone feels deeply listened to, they don’t worry about being judged or filter their thinking, which are elements of the DDT.   Instead they feel free to sort things out for themselves and clarify what is important to them as Creators.   Even more amazing, they begin to believe what they want is possible!

When you give your undivided and authentic attention to another, you become a catalyst for their Creator to emerge—-the central role in TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)™.   You will also notice that you are spending less energy because you are not planning your reaction, which happens in me-centered listening.

Can you afford not to listen when there’s so much on the line, at work and in your families?

Other-centered listening a gift you can give yourself and others, which can change everything for the good.  Not fixing or changing, pleasing or controlling others—-just listening with curiosity and acceptance about what matters most.