Have you ever been listened to? I mean, deeply listened to as you sat in the presence of someone who faced you, looked you in the eye, said nothing as you talked, and you knew that every second and every word you said, that person heard it. They sat in total concentration listening to the words you said. You can see they are listening to understand you so that they can remember and respond to the thoughts, ideas, or concerns you’ve shared.
And when you paused, and there was silence, they said nothing as they waited for you to continue. And when you were done and indicated that you were done speaking, they paused, showing you that they made a deliberate and conscious effort to be present and engaged rather than passively hearing you. And once they made sure you were empty of other words, they asked you questions. They asked for clarification, or they asked to go deeper.
After this, they may ask if they can add to what you said or offer a different perspective, and– this is the power moment–when your time together was complete, you got up and went on your way with a feeling of not just being heard, but being seen, being understood. You just had a conversation rich in communicative connection and acceptance. Maybe you walked away feeling unburdened and clear, or you left with a new way of thinking about things and a strategy to get through a process.
All of that can happen from being witnessed in conversation and having the ability to empty your mind, empty your thoughts, or the concerns you’re working through and connecting in order to get an answer. That silence that the other person gave you, that deep and active listening, was a gift and is a form of communication that we never get to dive deeply into regularly, especially at work. There is so much noise, information, and pressure coming at us all at once that our senses get engaged, or what feels like hijacked. Yet we rarely have that time to sit in the presence of someone else and mull through the chaos of our minds.
As the world gets more complicated, we don’t indulge in those moments where we settle in and get quiet enough to figure out what we need, what we want, or who we are. Do you see that– when you need others, when you need a solution, when you need a tool–it is within that silent communication that thoughts begin to settle because they’re landing outside of yourself and into the presence of someone else who deeply listens?
This is a powerful tool for leadership, professional and personal leadership. It can change your relationships. It can change your perception of yourself, and it can propel you in a different direction. Active listening upholds effective communication and helps build trust, understanding, and rapport in relationships. It bridges the gaps of confusion to clarity through listening and silence and is one of our most powerful forms of communication.
How does that show up in your life and your leadership?
As a leader, do you do this? And I don’t just mean as a leader at work. I mean, as a leader in your life. If you lead teams, do you do that type of listening to the people who support you? Do you do that with the people whom you report to? Do you do that when you go home to your partner, children, friends, and family?
Try it. You may learn something new and become the type of leader you wish to be and want to follow.
DEBORAH BLAKE DEMPSEY, MS is the CEO & Founder of Human Being Human, LLC. Deborah is a Life Strategist & Transformational Coach, Writer, and Speaker. She is the author of The Hoppernots, an uplifting, can-do story about amphibians and other forest dwellers coming together to defeat a common enemy and is told within a diverse ecosystem teeming with life and purpose. Her mission is to engage healthcare and corporate leaders at all levels to fulfill their greatness in their professional and personal lives by helping them understand their motivational drivers, define their purpose, find their voice, and develop their potential. She brings to her coaching more than 25 years of experience as a healthcare leader, having held strategic, financial, and operational leadership roles in physician practices, academic hospitals, and for-profit healthcare settings. Deborah is particularly interested in working with leaders struggling with self-confidence, professional identity, and facing burnout.
She holds an MS in Psychology from Southern New Hampshire University.