• Megan Jagger

Listening with Jon Bircher

Listening… perhaps it seems like such an obvious and simple skill to have and use? Some of us were taught as children, sitting in a circle waiting for a turn to speak, others being asked or even told to ‘listen’.

The Search for the Soulful Leader team have noticed that we can all be guilty of ‘listening’ but maybe actually only hearing words rather than hearing to understand or to take things in...

Through our Season 1 Episode 10 conversation with Jon Bircher, Professional Leadership and Strategy Coach, a few exercises emerged that could potentially help each one of us to tap into a possibly underused and powerful skill, of really listening.

You might find any, all or none of these exercises beneficial, but perhaps they’re worth a try, if for no other reason than listening being vital to everyday life and the foundation of relationships?

Jon is already well known for thought-leading pieces in Strategy Development and offers his clients an equally well practised set of tools, experiences and (as he would call them) experiments to offer in the realms of human interaction and influence.

Here he offers us the 3Cs, practical experiments that you are invited to try. We’d love to know what you discover about yourself and the quality of your human interactions if you give them a go…

  1. Conversation: As we draw through the Winter, perhaps take the opportunity to grab a friend and ask them about an event from a warmer and brighter season, or holiday experience they had; or any plans they have for the year ahead . As you ask questions and they tell their story, concentrate on their words, and also notice your own inner chatter… How much are you interpreting their story through your own experiences? What does their story and the words they use mean to you? How much do you want to jump in with stories of your own? Do you get distracted? Are you creating pictures of their experience in your own mind?

After this perhaps ask yourself what proportion of the conversation were you really listening to, and what proportion were you honestly in your own head for? You might be curious to consider what impact this might have on your relationships and the quality of your conversations… just notice what comes up.

  1. Curious: Find a friend or a colleague and explain how you are practising your listening skills and you would appreciate their help. Ask them to explain a recent experience that has impacted them or describe something going on for them where they would like to see change. Stay curious, and focus on the other person. Maybe practice asking powerful questions that you can’t know the answer to without them sharing, like ‘What sense do you make of that?’ ‘What is important about that to you?’

Notice what they say and how they say it, notice their facial expressions and body language, listen for what they value, what brings them to life and what drains them. After about 10 minutes reflect back to them, without judgement, what you heard, what you sensed, and what you picked up that wasn’t said but seems relevant. Then ask them “how listened to did you feel?” and “what impact did this have on you?”

  1. Comprehensive: For this exercise you need a notepad, a pen and a good dose of curiosity. The next time you are in a restaurant or on a train or in a church– start to pay attention. Focus on absorbing information from everywhere, to listen and observe; what you see, hear, smell, taste. Ask yourself a few questions; What is the energy in this space?

How are different people feeling?

How does the energy shift?

What changes when different people come and go?

If you enjoy this you could perhaps go to various different spaces and see what differences you observe in yourself and the surroundings– writing down your impressions and observations to see what shows up .

When you have tried one or more of these 3 ideas, ask yourself: “What have I noticed about listening?”

“What have I uncovered or learnt about myself?” “How could I use this going forward?’

We would love to hear how this experience impacted you and your thoughts on our use of the valuable skill of listening. Let us know via our social media channels (LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram) or use the contact form on our website .

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