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How to Hear What Others Don't: The Secret of Power Listeners

Written by Rebecca Okamoto on July 13, 2014

"Those who have ears, let them hear." Matthew 13:9

What do you hear when you listen?

Messages are being communicated even when words are unspoken. Can you hear them?

A couple of months ago I was updating a friend of mine, Elia Lopez, about my career status. I had just made a huge decision: I decided to leave corporate life.

As I talked, I looked to Elia for advice about what to do next. I felt jumbled about multiple possibilities including a new corporate role, going out on my own as a consultant, or spending time with my family.

I ended with "I'm going to take a few months off, and I'm not sure what I'll do next." What Elia said next shocked me.

"Becky," Elia said. "You already made your mind up. You're going to take time off to spend with your family, and you don't want another corporate 'parent.' You're going to focus on writing and making Evoke.pro successful."

What? Is that what I said?

A month later, I was sitting in front of Paul Smith, author of "Lead with a Story" and asking him for advice about becoming an author and publishing a nonfiction book.

Elia heard what I was saying, even though I hadn't expressed it.

Great coaches are great listeners. They don't just hear what's said, they hear what's unexpressed. They hear untapped potential, an unrealized goal or an unresolved conflict.

Here are some tips to improve your listening skills.

  1. Suppress your ego. Great listeners are focused on the speaker, not themselves. Suppress your need to talk or to give advice. Just listen. When you speak, reflect what the speaker is saying, or make an observation. Try not to overly interpret what's being said.

  2. Listen for what's unexpressed. Listening involves what's spoken and what's unspoken. And sometimes what's unexpressed is also unknown to the speaker.

  3. Give your undivided attention. Breakthrough coaching is often opportunistic, not planned. Don't let these moments slip by unnoticed because you're inattentive.

  4. Listening starts with trust. If you don't have a foundation of trust, it won't matter what you hear, what you say, or what advice you give. Start by building a relationship. The more trusting the relationship, the better your hearing becomes.

  5. Listen for tones, logic, and hesitation. Here are a few ways the unexpressed message is communicated.

    • Inconsistency or disconnect in logic

    • Hesitation where to there should be certainty

    • Unresolved tone: longing, wistful,and uncertain tones often signify something deeper

    • Dissatisfaction - for example, if the speaker actively seeks clarity, but is never satisfied, it could be because the speaker is seeking clarity for something different.

Just because words aren't spoken doesn't mean a message is unexpressed.

Now you hear it loud and clear.

Interested in learning more about leadership and listening? Take a look at How NOT to Listen - One Habit that's Not Helping You

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