Active listening is a superpower. When we listen (we mean really listen) it can help us form deeper connections, read between the lines and understand what’s really being said. 

We live in a digital age where distractions are everywhere, including the screen you’re reading this from. Listening and being listened to is a real gift and if done correctly, can solve business problems, build meaningful relationships and create those much-needed ‘aha!’ moments in meetings. 

The thing is, we’re not always listening quite as well as we think we are. 

Have you ever found yourself in a conversation, thinking about what to have for lunch? Or the email you’ve been putting off? This is called level 1 listening and we’re all guilty of it. This type of listening will only get us so far, and it’s likely that the person you’re speaking to is aware that your mind is elsewhere. 

Okay, how do I level up my listening skills?

Unlike zipping across skyscrapers like Spiderman, active listening is a superpower you can learn and start practising straight away. 

Fast-track your ability to be a great listener with Nancy Kline’s 10 Components.

1. Attention.

The quality of our attention determines the quality of other people’s thinking. What body language will you use to show that you’re really listening?

2. Incisive Questions.

Ask yourself, ‘What am I assuming here that is stopping me?’ Strip out the assumption and form a new question.

3. Equality.

Leave bias and hierarchy at the door and treat each other as thinking peers, giving equal turns and attention.

4. Appreciation.

Practise a 5:1 ratio of appreciation to criticising. Instead of stopping an idea in its tracks, try paraphrasing to seek understanding and ask ‘How?’ Instead of saying no. 

5. Ease.

Offer freedom from rush or urgency. Consider the environment and timing of your conversation.

6. Encouragement.

Move beyond competition, consider positive reinforcement and ask open questions.

7. Feelings.

Unexpressed feelings can inhibit good thinking. Try communicating your feelings in a respectful way and listen without judgement to their feelings too. 

8. Information.

Increase integrity by providing a full and accurate picture of reality. What pieces of valuable information can you pick up from the conversation?

9. Place.

Create a neutral, physical environment that says ‘you matter’, by eliminating distractions where possible. Try turning off email notifications or putting your phone on airplane mode.

10. Difference.

The greater the diversity of the group = the greater the welcoming of different points of view. This leads to a greater chance of accurate, cutting-edge thinking.

Who is Nancy Kline?

Nancy Kline is a renowned author and leadership development expert, best known for her influential work in the field of thinking and communication. In her groundbreaking book, ‘Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind,’ Kline introduces a revolutionary approach to fostering creativity and enhancing problem-solving skills through the power of attentive listening.

Kline’s central thesis revolves around the idea that the quality of thinking is directly linked to the quality of attention we give to one another. She advocates for creating a thinking environment, a space where individuals feel truly heard and respected, allowing for the free flow of ideas. Through practical insights and real-life examples, Kline demonstrates how this approach can transform personal and professional relationships, leading to more innovative and collaborative outcomes.

‘How to Think: A Guide to Taking Charge of Your Own Mind’ is a culmination of Kline’s wisdom, providing readers with actionable strategies to improve their thinking processes. With a focus on empowering individuals to take control of their minds, Kline’s work serves as a beacon for anyone seeking to unlock their full cognitive potential and cultivate a culture of thoughtful communication.

Take it to your coach

Want to explore your strengths, leadership skills or career goals? Or perhaps you want to dig into how stress could be holding you back. More Happi provides access to high-quality, affordable 1:1 coaching to help you overcome obstacles, solve problems and get where you want to go, faster. Discover more here

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