On Listening (Part 3)

"Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand."

(Karl A. Menninger)

The magic of listening.

Perhaps you've experienced it.

You come into a conversation one way and leave it transformed.

Perhaps you feel more whole.

Perhaps it's that you feel bigger, more expansive, your image with more vivid edges that make you...you.

To be a good listener is to create this magic experience for another person.

To do it, it's important to relinquish control.

Instead, step into a world that only you two will be able to create.

You're stepping into an ocean current or a radio frequency and you must be there together.

Actually, I will return to the metaphor of the dance. You're dancing together and the music is improvised. You must become keenly aware of the other person's movements and the way each movement produces a new tempo or sound. But, you're not making this music by yourself, it's being produced as you dance together.

To dance such a dance, you must believe that your value does not come from speaking.

You must reorient your mindset to believing that listening is equally as valuable as talking.

Reorienting our belief system challenges conventional wisdom that celebrates those who 'talk'.

In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain highlights the shift from a "Culture of Character" that prevailed before the 20th century to a "Culture of Personality", which emerged in the 20th century and is supported by institutions and systems that promote charisma over character virtues.

A celebration of 'talkers' has come at the expense of 'listeners'.

Rare is the corporate leadership competencies that highlight "listening" as a promotable skill, yet when I recently asked a cohort studying executive presence to define the term, they highlighted "listening well." And, when I asked them to describe a leader who has "executive presence" they cited that the leader's listening behaviors at the top of the list. In fact, several pointed to their CEO, and justified their choice by describing him as an excellent listener.

Listening is magic.

You can be a magician today.

Step into the dance.

Let your partner lead.

Reflect rather than activate.

Hold space rather than solve.

Be witness to another's expansion.

"Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would have preferred to talk." (Doug Larson)

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