A few weeks ago I was coaching a group using coaching challenges to work together on them. One of the participants shared her cases describing a situation that was bothering her. When the other participants started asking her questions she often responded before hearing the end of the question. After a while, we shifted gears and asked her to turn her chair around and simply listen to the others. The group then started to share their thoughts and ideas about the described situation.
One of the participants started to wonder about how she had been reacting to the questions. He had felt talked over. She hadn’t let him finish his question and answered what she thought he was looking for.
His questions shifted the conversation to her leadership style.
What was the cause of these quick reactions? And how did this relate to her case?
When we invited her back into the group she shared how different her listening experience had been when she didn’t need to answer our questions. As she didn’t have to answer she could simply be present and listen to what had been shared.
From her sharing, it then became apparent that she had developed this habit to appear as a decisive leader pushing for action. Having the time to listen to her peers helped her realize the drawback of her behavior.
The group then started to share a few ways people prevent themselves from listening.
There is a group of people who seeks to speak themselves and search for ways to turn the conversation to themselves or wait for a small break to make their point.
Others seem to fear that their thought might disappear if they don’t share it immediately. Often they’ve been mulling over their ideas preparing themselves to speak or they’ve been trying to assess if they agree or disagree with what was being said. Sometimes they are also bored to hear the same thing over and over again and try to cut it short by finishing the sentence or they do so to appear especially knowledgeable.
And yet others are distracted by an inconsistency or a detail they hear that distracts them starting a different train of thoughts they’ll follow.
Being present to listen allows hearing what the other is saying while making sense of what they mean. It is about seeking to understand why the person is sharing what they are sharing and how it contributes to the conversation.
It serves the common understanding and helps build a project with a shared understanding.