I was doing some work with some other coaches on what it means to be a good coach and one of the resources that was used was this video from “Kleenex”.
Take a minute to watch it and then come back.
The video dramatically points out the importance of listening and how very important it to all of us to be heard.
Listening is a bit of a lost art in our society. We are so busy with our own things. So busy reading texts and email, tweets and Facebook. How often do we truly listen to someone.
Good listening comes with good questions and I’m going to give you a quick lesson in how to ask a question if you really want to listen. A good question is one that people would be hard pressed to answer with a short phrase or a single word.
If you ask me how I am I will likely respond with “Fine”, or “Very Well.”
Now there is the chance that you really don’t want to know how I am and if you are just being polite and passing the time go ahead and ask that sort question.
If however you truly care and want to have a heartfelt response you need to learn to ask an “Open Ended Question.”
Consider this examples.
The kids are coming through the door after school. The parent can ask, “How was your day?” and get the usual, “Fine” answer or could ask the more probing kind of question, albeit statement, like “Tell me about your day,” or “What were the best things that happened at school today”. They ask about the things that weren’t so great.
You are having coffee with your partner and are curious about how they are going to spend their day consider how to ask the question in a way that will allow them to tell you their plans rather than a closed “Where are you working today.” That will get you one word while something like, “What is in store for your day,” opens the door for a list of things they could tell you.
Learning to ask open ended questions is a bit of an art but it is one you can test easily with the question to yourself about how many words it could take to answer.
The only thing you have to add to the mix for true listening is compassion and perhaps a little patience. Be sure if you ask the open ended question to take the time to allow them to finish.
I don’t know what the guy in the Kleenex commercial is asking but I suppose it might be something like, “Tell me what is going on in your life?”, or “Tell me about the things that are really important to you?”
When you decide to ask people for true answers and are willing to take the time to listen be sure to put the Kleenex box where they can reach it easily before you start the conversation. If you put the box down later they might think it’s not OK to cry. But that is another whole blog post and topic which usually provokes a 20 minute discussion in the classes I teach.