“He who knows, does not speak.
He who speaks, does not know.”
Start by “Sensing” the conversation
In a previous post, we started talking about the art of listening actively and authentically. The first step was to become more empathic and attentive. Turn off all of the distractions that we can. Turn on our minds. And, turn on all of our senses.
Now that we have turned off all of the things that keep us self-focused for a moment, and have met this person “where they are,” what do we need to do next?
Use Your Words
We need to show some signs of life, with words and actions.
We need to engage them. Engagement, in a general sense, means that we become part of something. For instance, if we are engaged to be married, we are preparing to officially become part of a unified couple. In this sense of communicating, we become part of the story, or part of the process of getting the story told.
We engage them with words and actions. With words, not questions.
Words that help move the story along. But, not push it along.
Words that comfort and support.
Words that show that we are paying attention to them.
Words that help them finish their story. We do not need to supply the words that finish the story for them.
What do we usually do when we are interested in something?
We lean in. We face front. We reposition ourselves so that our face and body are both facing the same direction.
We lean in. We reach out.
We touch. We close the distance between us and the object or person of interest.
We engage physically and mentally.
But, as we are moving to close this distance, we need to check ourselves.
What is our stance? What kind of postural cues and clues are we sending out?
Is our posture open or closed? Are our arms and legs crossed and folded, or are we pretty loose? This is one of my personal issues. Even when I am relaxed, I tend to cross my arms and legs. So I have to make a conscious effort to un-do it when I notice.
Is our stance receptive or repulsive?
Are we all boxed-up and physically pushing people away without even realizing it?
Or, are we receptive? Easy to come up next to? Or, walk alongside?
Is our pose alert, or does it convey that we are bored, and wished we were doing something else?
There is no specific order in doing these things, and they should come naturally, or at least look natural. If it feels awkward, then, practice.
Just as you are working to become more aware of others, get to know your own postural and facial tells and clues as well. Some of your close friends can probably help you with this.
We give away much more information in the ways in which we do things and the ways we move than most of us ever realize.
What do we know so far?
For attentive and authentic listening, we have two things we need to work on…
Gear up our senses. Actually look at the person with whom we are communicating. Look at all of them. Truly notice them. See them!
Second, engage with words to help, comfort and move their story-telling forward. Remember, this is their story, not yours!