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Thursday, May 16, 2013

One Simple Thing to Change Any Human Situation

We live in a noisy world: everyone’s talking. But do you get the sense that anyone is listening? How would you rate your listening ability on a scale of 1-10? On busy days, I’d rate mine a five. That’s lousy. 

How do we propose to help our customers and succeed in relationships if we aren’t even listening?


We all do it. We think about what we want to say long before the person we’re engaged in conversation with has stopped talking. We mentally check out or check our email to fill in for pauses with our impatience. We focus on how we’ll be impacted by the content conversation.  
I pondered this problem recently when I discovered the work of Elesa Commerse, a former Fortune 500 business executive turned nationally recognized meditation teacher. Elesa trains people in the ancient art of “deep listening.” 

According to Commerse, the deep listener’s sole purpose is to listen with mindfulness and compassion. Listening mindfully means that your mind is full of the moment, as if your life depended on it. That’s a very active, engaged, sharp form of listening. The deep listener passes no judgment; offers no commentary, feedback, suggestions or answers. The listener doesn’t interrupt, try to complete sentences or help the talker find words during pauses.

Commerse believes deep listening can be applied in the business world. I agree. 

Yesterday, I was on a conference call with a client to review a research presentation I was developing for him. The more we talked, the clearer the situation became. His point of view had completely changed. All the hours I had spent were wasted. 

In that moment I had a choice. I could mentally cling to the content I had created and become distracted, wondering why I wasn’t given a heads-up and how I was going to muster the energy to begin again. Or, I could shake my mind like an Etch-a-Sketch and dive into the act of deep listening. 

I chose the latter. Not only did I gain better insight into his new point of view, but I heard so much more. The resulting work was better for it.

Through deep listening, I surfaced the powerful communications that happened underneath words about his shifting industry. I heard sighs, pauses and grunts that spoke volumes. I sensed his frustration as well as his hope for the future. I knew exactly what direction in which to take the second draft. 

I believe that listening deeply will enable us to develop creativity as well as empathy for the people with whom we work. The moments of listening intently temporarily free us from our incessant self-obsession. Space is generated for fresh ideas to spring forth.  

If you live in Chicago you can discover the power of deep listening for yourself. Throughout the month of May, from 5:30 – 6:30 PM, volunteers who have been trained in the ancient art of deep listening will be available for 5-15 minute listening sessions at Touching Earth Mindfulness Learning Center in Highland Park, Illinois.


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