At ELP, we work with the Ten Commandments of Dialogue. The sixth is about listening actively and attentively. Listening is an underestimated quality that has fallen from grace. It is a process that engages your whole body, not just your ears. The words that others say are only a small part of listening. Your eyes play a role in watching facial expressions and being attentive to gestures or body language. Your intuition comes into play feeling people’s energy, assessing the interaction between you and them, feeling safe or alert. Truly listening requires paying attention to all these processes in yourself and others.
Listening is a challenge for some leaders, because they are used to doing the talking and being listened to. Truly listening and keeping silent doesn’t come easy. Some of them are itching to interrupt sometimes because they think they know what’s coming. ELP encourages them to be patient and listen, just listen.
Often people are verbalizing a response in their mind while another person is still speaking. Their pitfall is to focus more on their own reply in the making than to the words of the speaker in the moment. We therefore encourage participants at ELP to first listen, before they even think about replying. As Stephen Covey said: ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’. Being interested comes before being interesting.