Asking Questions and Listening
I've been working with leaders all week and then tonight after work I met a few friends at a new wine bar in town.
As I was driving home I was thinking about the week and what hit me was the fact that as a species we sure talk alot. If you know me you are nodding your head, saying, "YOU TALK- ALOT!"
Yes, I've been accused of talking too much- that is true and perhaps that's why finally I'm acutely aware of the underdeveloped nature of listening skills.
A friend of mine taught me alot about listening; he taught me to sit with silence, to allow white space between my thoughts and between the words we conveyed to one another. When he listens to me I feel valued at a depth that I've never felt- because he tunes into the conversation, all of him; mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually; he shows up. When I was first getting to know him it was uncomfortable to talk to him, his presence so powerful- the knowing that took place between us so intimate I mean crap he listened…he felt…he knew me. He showed me how to be present for others and for this I am eternally grateful.
I am slowly learning to hold the white space around my words until I feel the question and listen so intently I feel the person I am conversing with. I am learning to be present to the person, not to just be a mouthpiece for my body or in my head thinking about what I am going to say next or what I need to do…
As I worked with leaders this week I was reminded of how much us leaders feel the necessity, the urge to tell, to talk, how much direction comes out of our mouths and how few questions come and how little inquiry we really do…
As a leader the question is my most important tool. As a human being my ability to connect is directly correlated to my ability to care and to want to know about the other.
I am often asking the question; can you help me to understand …or …can you explain this to me…I always engage with a question because I always come from a state of not knowing because over the years of assuming I finally realized- I am not the other person so I can't possibly know what he or she is thinking, so I come knowing that the 'other' has much to teach and tell me.
As a leader coming from a place of not knowing means I show up curious not opinionated.
Curious is a conduit for connection.
Young coaches, young leaders often begin coaching sessions with a statement.
I teach them to engage with a question.
Questions engage others, they invite others to a conversation to a dialog; statements close things, they have a tendency to send the message, 'Shut up and listen."
If anyone is going to shut up I prefer it be the leader or the person mindlessly chattering about themself.
To coach I need to understand. To understand I need to know. To know I must ask.
Tonight as we were outside of the work environment, in the wine bar I noticed that even here in a very private, public setting people were rushing to fill up moments with their statements, explanations, verbal barrages; promoting themselves, their views and their intentions.
What a different world it would be if instead of meeting others with our diatribe we would engage them with questions, show up with an authentic desire to know the 'other', to learn about them, to understand them. How different would this world be if for a while we forgot entirely about ourselves, our intentions, agenda, goals or lusts…What if it wasn't all about us; what if first and foremost when we met another human being at work or at play we asked a question, became present and listened intently?
When this happens- people open up and right before your eyes; ordinary people unveil their miraculousness and the magic of being known and knowing happens.
Ask, Listen…because people matter.
pamhoelzle at twitter