Part I : Listening and Building Relationships with the “Third Ear”

Daily Quote:  “When people are listened to sensitively, they tend to listen to themselves with more care and to make clear exactly what they are feeling and thinking.” Dr. Carl Rogers 

1. Communicate so as to build rapport by showing interest, respect and responsiveness.Show positive regard and respect by greeting and attending to others needs.Trying to find common interests creates unique and supportive connections. For example, pay attention to what the other person is wearing and how they carry themselves. Always be ready to pay sincere compliments and ask open ended questions.

2. Be in-synch. With words, voice tone, body language ( use high and low tones, open gestures, eye contact) aligned with clear and concise message. If you find the place in you that is really pleased to speak with the other person and truly interested in what they have to say, you will be congruent in what you say and how you say it. People will clearly see your warmth and caring concern through your eyes, voice tone and facial expressions.

3. Tune-in with the Third Ear-eliminate external and Internal distractions
We can all sense if someone is fully “present” with us or distracted by other things going on in the environment.  Listening with the “third ear” means that you focused not just the other person’s words or content, but you are truly trying to content and emotional intent of what they are saying. To do this you must be sure that your mind is not distracted. Active listening requires you to stay with and be there for the other person, so please eliminate al noise distractions such as cell phones, televisions and other conversations or activities.
If possible, find a place with minimal distractions away from other people and activities so that you can fully concentrate on listening and responding. If you are doing something else when someone approaches you to share, choose to “drop” what you are doing and actively fully focus on listening to show the person they are important and valued.

4. Acceptance of others and building trust. No one has said it better than Carl Rogers in his book Freedom to Learn “When I do truly hear a person and the meanings that are important to him at that moment, hearing not simply the words, but him, and when I let him know that I have heard his own private personal meanings, many things happen.  There is first of all a grateful look. He feels acceptance.  He feels released.  He wants to tell me more about his world. He surges forth in a new sense of freedom.  I think he becomes more open to the process of change.”

It is easier to eliminate external noise than the internal noise in your mind that is thinking of other things, worrying about the past or future conversations or problems.  Eastern psychologists warn us that the mind is like a bouncing ball going in one direction or another. So we need to learn to quiet our mind, stop randomly jumping around  and to focus on where we want the mind to go and then the behavior will follow.

How to stop the “bouncing ball” and be attentive and actively listen? 
Many neurologists and psychologist suggest the practice of meditation, mindfulness and/or other western methods of focusing the mind with discipline, people begin to become the master of their minds and in control of the vast energy and power of the mind.  The mind focused on one-to-one communication is “mindful” and gives the person an immense power of “presence”, the power of focus, of attention, and really being fully present with another person in the moment

ELIMINATE INTERNAL PERSONAL JUDGEMENTS
We are often distracted by our own views and values, our own perceptions that cause us to judge another person from our own personal experiences and histories.  We cannot fully listen to another person if we are really listening to our own “mind chatter.”  We tend to listen “autobiographically” and perceive what the other person is saying through filters based on our own lives and personal experiences. We need to be less self-centered. The key concept is listening with a mind-set of non-judgment. Often we “selectively listen” to what the other person is saying with personal bias, listening for affirmations of our own views or judging negatively when we find differences. If we eliminate our own judgments based on our own lives, we can have the opportunity to experience empathic understanding of the other person and enter into their world, their perceptions and reality.
Be sure you are listening to the other person and not to yourself and your own perceptions of the world.  Full respect, positive regard and unconditional acceptance of the other person are necessary conditions  for becoming a empathic listening.

ACTIVELY LISTEN FOR UNDERSTANDING
As you listen carefully, what do you want to know to understand more fully the other person’s perspective?  Invite them to share more to deepen your understanding.  Ask “open questions”  and “door openers” that invite the person to share more.   “That is very interesting, . . “  Tell me more about . . .” How do you feel about . . .”

Let your body express that you are “following” and interested in what the other person is saying and that you would like to hear more.  Show excitement and genuine interest by using “encouragers”, allowing your body to express attention through positive and encouraging head nods, caring voice tone, warm eye contact and expressive facial expressions.  Convey genuine interest, enthusiasm and joy in trying to connect with others.

Practice:  Clarification, Restatement and Reflective RESPONSES
Once you have begun to sense the world of the other person, begin to reflect back their significant thoughts and feelings.  Listen to what they have just shared and find the most important feelings that the person has shared or the deeper meaning that may lie behind the words.  Use reflective statements to paraphrase or summarize what the other person seems to be thinking or feeling.
Check your perceptions by reflecting back what you think you have heard the other person say or perhaps what they might like to say or explore..  “Perception-checking” often starts with statements like “You seem to feel”, “I imagine you must want.”   You are not sure so you give “wiggle-room” for them to agree or clarify more fully how they do feel etc.  Your clear interest allows the other person to share his/her feelings at a deeper, more accurate level that fosters real contact and genuine communication.

FACILITATE CLARIFICATION AND CONCRETENESS
As you actively listen and respond, you will clarify the feelings and meanings of what the person is expressing or trying to express.  When you do not understand exactly what the other person means, paraphrase or summarize what you think they are saying and they will clarify their feelings for you.
In your reflections, strive to use clear, specific, “concrete” descriptions to deepen the level of understanding.  Being clear and descriptive communicates true understanding and leads to deeper levels of empathic two-way communication and sharing that can lead to improved  interpersonal connections and relationship development and growth.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Identify one person who you would like to connect with and understand more fully, then choose to practice one of the techniques listed above like clarification, reflection or perception checking. Take notes in your journal on what worked, what didn’t work and how you can improve your listening skills.

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