Helping someone with a big decision? Don’t talk, listen.
The beauty of listening is it’s free and readily accessible. The secret to its superpower is not all listening happens through our ears – it also happens through our awareness of not just what is said, but how something is being said. The energy around it. People will give away their truest desires as they talk, but it’s not in their words. It’s in the excitement in their voice, the brightness in their eyes, or even the reverence with which they describe what they see as a faraway impossible goal. They are telling you their inner answer not just by what they say, but by how they say it.
We are making decisions all the time. Sometimes they are little, like what should I have for lunch and require little energy or thought. And sometimes they can be life changing like should I take that new job opportunity and move across the country? We are all facing decisions about venturing out and gathering with others, inside or outside or getting on a plane for a much-needed vacation. Big decisions are being discussed about returning to an office work environment or continuing to work from home – and if you are working remotely, what should you be paid or what might it mean to your career progression?
We had a client that was deciding whether to take a job. It involved moving to a new city, which she was open to, and she wanted the position. But something was holding her back. As she spoke about the opportunity her energy was flat and dominated buy “should” and the weighty feeling of obligation. By listening deeply to her, we realized the narrative she was telling herself was about what she thought was expected of her – not what she wanted to do. By listening not only to her words but also the energy behind them, she came to realize that her hesitation wasn’t about the job, rather she really didn’t want to live in that particular city. She realized where she lived was more important than what job she had.
Listening is one of the core skills we teach teams and leaders because it creates more safety, more candor, more connection. By listening, you seek to understand not just what everyone is saying, but the deeper underlying issues and from that place, discern what is needed. This skill is key to unlocking misunderstandings and tensions, enhancing collaboration and deepening connection with the humans you work with. It is so basic, and that’s the beauty of it. No special equipment needed. Think about how you can listen better to others. Whether it’s helping someone make a big life decision or helping a team get unstuck. How can you help by hearing not just the words they are saying, but their energy?