Listening When Helping People Change

Heather Palow
August 14, 2019

How often do we feel heard? How often do we really hear people out? How often do we groan when we think about how hard change can be?

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Smiling and maintaining eye contact in a conversation lets your speaker know you're actively listening.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, The Power of Listening When Helping People Change, they suggest:

Listening resembles a muscle. It requires training, persistence, effort, and most importantly, the intention to become a good listener. It requires clearing your mind from internal and external noise — and if this isn’t possible, postponing a conversation for when you can truly listen without being distracted.

The article highlights several experiments and research studies that prove what we all know, that listening is a social trade off activity. What I appreciated most about their article was their authentic tips to becoming a better listener when helping people change. The ones I liked the most included:

~Resist the urge to interrupt before the speaker indicates that they are done for the moment.

~Listen without jumping to conclusions and interpreting what you hear. You may notice your judgmental thoughts but push them aside. If you notice that you lost track of the conversation due to your judgments, apologize to the speaker that your mind was distracted, and ask them to repeat.

~ The role of the listener is to help the speaker draw up a solution themselves. If you believe you have a good solution and feel an urge to share it, use a question, such as “I wonder what will happen if you choose to do X?”

~ Good listening requires being thoughtful about what the speaker needs help with most and crafting a question that would lead the speaker to search for an answer.

Can you see yourself applying these strategies to your next conversation with someone?

I hope you'll consider stretching your "listening" muscle, pausing to ask "Is there anything else?" toward the end of the conversation and reflecting on how it went so you can support the speaker's change process in the future.

Let us know in the comments if you have key questions you like to ask others or send me an email and I'll share helpful insights from fellow readers.

Heather Palow Finding Your Moment

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