Listen firstTo be heard we must be prepared to listen first. We do not just listen with our ears, that’s only where the sound is funnelled. We listen with our brain. Anatomy deep in your mid-brain is continually assessing for friend or foe – safe and trust or threat? If we offer to listen first we establish us as “friend”.
What do they want to get?Take time to really hear what each would like to get from your meeting. Establish up front that their contribution is going to be heard. You will have already started to switch on the reward circuitry.
Learn their nameIt may sound obvious but make a point, if you don’t already know it, to learn names. Use names (not too often) at times in the conversation that are appropriate. Saying someone’s name lets them know that you have “seen” them.
Respect every voiceValue every contribution and opinion. Allow each person to speak, without fear of recrimination. Start from a position that each individual’s intention is good. Giving time for others to talk will be reciprocated when it’s your turn. In every conversation we assess our relative position to others. Our sense of self-worth is profoundly influenced by the degree to which we perceive others rank us. Quoting psychologist Daniel Goleman: “Threats to our standing in the eyes of others are remarkably potent biologically, almost as powerful as those to our very survival. After all, the unconscious equation goes, if we are judged to be undesirable, we may not only be shamed, but suffer complete rejection.”
What is your body saying?So much of what we convey is based on our tone, facial expression and body language. When we are engaged in conversation our body language tends to reflect that of the other. It is non-conscious and driven by neurons in our brain that support mirroring and empathy. So, watch for body language. As you listen to others establish trust by subtle mirroring – be careful though of direct imitation! In meetings where trust is established debate can happen. Without trust conflict appears. If you can establish trust from the start of every conversation you will have a far greater chance for meetings where listening actual happens. Susanne Jacobs is author of DRIVERS (£14.99, Panoma Press)
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