focused listening

My mom and I recently presented a workshop titled “Intentional Families,” in which we focused on intentional communication in our families. Getting intentional in both our listening and our responding to others.

In this workshop, we talk about the difference between Internal Listening and Focused Listening. As our word for this week is Intention, I wanted to share this with you.

Internal Listening.
Friend 1: My new house is a mess! There are boxes everywhere.
Friend 2: I went through the same thing last year. The key for me was just to take it one room at a time.
Friend 1: That’s just the problem, though. I feel like this is taking forever to get settled in. I just want this to feel like “home.”
Friend 2: Don’t worry. The mess is temporary. You’ll be fine.

Friend 2 is doing what I call “Internal Listening.” She is paying attention to her own experiences, perspective, and opinions. Not necessarily wrong, yet a BIG MISS.

In Internal Listening, my filter is: “What does this mean to me.” or “How can I relate to what I’m hearing.”
Awareness is on myself; on MY thoughts, reactions or feelings.

Example Internal Listening Responses:

  • I know what you mean…
  • I had a similar experience…
  • Here’s what I would do…
  • Don’t worry; it’s not such a big deal.
  • I hate when that happens!

The Big Miss is that listening in this way misses the opportunity to validate, empathize, and connect with another. I’m “listening” but not “hearing you.”

Focused Listening.
Focused Listening helps us take our conversations to a new level. A level that creates deeper connection, new understanding, is engaging and enlivening, and builds trust.

My awareness and attention is fully focused on the other. I listen not only to their words, but to their tone, expression, body language, energy, mood, emotions.
I listen for what they do not say
I listen for what they value
I listen without attachment to my own thoughts, opinions, agenda

Examples Focused Listening Responses:

  • What was that like for you?
  • What possibilities do you see?
  • You sound excited! Am I hearing you correctly?
  • You sound frustrated. What do you need now?
  • How can I support you with this?
  • What do you need?

The key to Focused Listening is a presupposed genuine interest in and care for the other. A true curiosity about him or her as a human being. You are no longer trying to figure out THE answer, or your next response. You are simply and wholeheartedly LISTENING.

Here’s the dialogue from above, with Friend 2 using focused listening:
Friend 1: My new house is a mess! There are boxes everywhere.
Friend 2: I hear you, sounds frustrating!
Friend 1: Yes, I’m frustrated! I feel like this is taking forever to get settled in. I just want this to feel like “home.”
Friend 2: What would help you feel more “at home,” even while you’re getting settled?
Friend 1: Hmmm, good question! That sounds like a good topic for our dinner conversation tonight.

Focused Listening comes surprisingly naturally once we’re aware of it. Listening in this way and focusing our attention completely on the other feels authentic, feels true. It reminds us of what we already know. That we humans need deep and meaningful relationships with one another in order to thrive. Relationships rich in compassion, understanding, and empathy. Focused Listening will take us there.

Give it a try! Choose one conversation today where you will intentionally practice focused listening. Start by taking a deep grounding breath, sitting still, and making good eye contact. Then work to quiet any inner chatter that may arise while you’re listening! Let me know how it goes and what you notice as you listen in a more focused way.

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  1. This week’s word is…COURAGE - Conversation Revolution - Women Rise. Evolve the Conversation of Mothering.