In the last leadership development program, for the first time, I heard people call “Listen” as “Discover”. It makes perfect sense to me. The steps of active listening was:
- Suspend Agenda
- Pay attention
- Asking open ended question like “what”, “why”, “what else”.
- Paraphrase to confirm understanding
This small tip worked for me fantastically in the last few weeks.
Everyone has a World, Inside
Everyone’s spiritual world is inside his/her mind. It is not easy to explain how the world looks like. People rely on language to communicate it. There are ways to convey feelings, like using art, music, or dance, but not everyone has the technique to express using these ways, or understand it. So language seems to be the major way.
Unfortunately, language is such a narrow tunnel that prevent the whole of the mind to flow quickly and freely from one person to another. Our thought may be random, and paralle, but our language has to be linear and logic. When we “serialize” (the computer term) our thought to a flow of sentences, we often forget to tell many important things, or assume others already know the context. For example, if we have 100% of the thoughts in our mind (maybe 50% is conscious, and 50% is unconscious – even ourselves don’t know we know, but we do know), when we talk, we typically can only talk about 5% of our thoughts.
That is the reason the person who listened should not stop at the 5% they listened. Listener should change a position by asking “Why are you thinking this way?“. This question helps to speaker to tell you more about what is behind the initial 5% of the thoughts, this way, you get 8% (numbers are just for illustration proposes) of what he/she thought. After that, ask “What else do you think?“, or simply “What else?“. This question helps the speaker to explorer inside his/her self to find if there is anything missing. Chances are, there is always something that is at not so top of his/her mind but is also important. This way, you get 11% of what the person think. Keep asking “What”, “why”, and “what else” question during a conversation until you feel satisfied that you have explored enough of the thought of that person. This whole process, I think, is best called “discover”. It is all about observing a misterious world using limited window to that world. This is a very important listening skill.
It was maybe the 5th time in my professional life to attend a seminar for listening skills, but until the last time did I really realize what it means. We can make such a big impact to ourselves, and to the speaker to facilitate better communication.
Game of Yes or No
I like a game called “Yes or No”. The speaker thinks of a story, and only tell the result of the story. The listeners (maybe 10 to 20 of them) all ask close ended question to the speaker, like “Is this person a woman?”, “Was this guy murdered?” The speaker can only gave answers of “Yes”, “No”, or “Irrelevant”.
We typically play the game when we were on the train back home. It was 18 hour train, and it takes about 1 – 2 hours to finally discover the story itself. When it is done, we realize the story was so simple but the Yes/No question was such a narrow channel, that information was not allowed to flow freely. That makes communication that hard.
It is the same in real world. We need to ask “open questions” to discover more of other person’s mind, and also help that person to tell you more than they initially thought.
This was such a useful skill for me, that I’d like to share with everyone on this blog. Good luck.