The Recovering Farmer

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Art of Listening

Just last month we were again reminded to talk about it through the Bell “Let’s Talk” campaign. As I think back to topics I have touched on over the years the subject of talking has come up frequently. I am a huge proponent of talking about it when we feel “off”. I know the significant help that has been for me.

Recently I received a call from a woman who was carrying a family secret with her that she found quite burdensome. She needed to talk about it and as a result of hearing about my presentation at Agdays she felt she could trust me. She talked, I listened. The secret she had thought would go to the grave with her had caused significant pain for her. So I listened. The stuff she talked about was not something I have any expertise in but I was able to validate and acknowledge the hurt she felt. When I hung up after the call I felt that I had failed her. I felt I should have said more. Perhaps offer some answers. I received an email from her a week later where she thanked me for taking the time. She expressed how much better she felt, how she felt that a huge burden had been lifted.

I went back to school this week. Not as a student but as a teacher. I talked to a group of students in the Ag department at the University of Manitoba. They are learning all about succession planning and wanted information on starting a conversation with their parents on succession, and when that conversation has started how to keep the process moving.

A significant part of my presentation dealt with listening. I know for myself I often think that when I am involved in a conversation I must talk. And that can mess up a conversation real quick. So often I find myself formulating my next thought or response while the other person is talking to me. Well, guess what. That would probably suggest I was not listening.

As I suggested to the students, effective communicators listen more than they talk. And just because I listen closely when someone else talks does not mean I agree. Rather it’s a matter of gaining understanding. We must turn from judgement to curiosity. It is interesting how gaining understanding empowers both parties to express feelings, to share wants, needs, and desires. It helps in achieving a collaborative approach for a win-win outcome.

Dr. Ralph Roughten has written some good thoughts on listening. Let me share a few of them.

“When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving advice
you have not done what I have asked.”

“When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me
why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on
my feelings.”

“Listen! All I asked was that you listen,
Not talk or do - just hear me.”

Listening more effectively is an art. It can be very difficult because of our sense that we should be responding. We should be providing advice or answers. But as with the woman who called me she did not need answers. She did not need advice. She needed a listening ear with a touch of validation and acknowledgement. So simple, yet so difficult. Listen more, understand more, love more. Make it a good one.

“The biggest communication problem is we don’t listen to understand, we listen to reply.”

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