“Dad, If I tell you what I am thinking about, will you promise not to respond in any way?”
Translation: “Dad, can you be present in the moment when I tell you what’s important to me? Will you stop thinking about your response and just listen?”
Recently I recounted in my mind an interaction that I had with my daughter a few years back. We were having a discussion around a heated topic. I asked her what she thought, and she seemed reluctant to share. I pressed for her views. She looked at me calmly and said: “If I tell you what I think, will you promise not to respond?”
Even though the question shocked me (and hurt), I agreed. The next ten minutes where hard to bear. I knew that I couldn’t speak a word during, or after, her story. All I could do was listen.
What my daughter was saying to me that day was this: “Me sharing this with you does not mean that I need you to solve my problem. I just need you to feel what I am feeling, to get what I am going through in this moment.”
This concept was tough to get my mind around. I’m a logical guy. I solve problems. When somebody comes to me, I am ready to listen and ready to ask questions, challenge assumptions, find solutions. That’s what I do.
But after my daughter asked me to stop doing what I do, and to truly listen, I started listening with my heart and not with my mind. I had to stop my mind from working and pause it (along with all the noise with it) in order to engage my emotions. That moment continues to fuel my work and desire to become a deep listener with family, friends, colleagues and clients. I call it listening in the moment.
When I am listening in the moment, I am often reminded of times when my daughters were very young. They would fall and get a cut that would rattle them. They’d cry and I’d hold them and comfort them and they would eventually calm down, forgetting about the cut. They didn’t need ointment or a bandage, they just needed to be held. They needed to feel the security that I was there, and I understood their emotions at that moment.
How do you listen? Have you thought about what your team members, family members and friends expect from you as a listener? Do you default to problem-solving or feeling when you listen?