DEEP Listen

How to DEEP Listen.

I will be a Deep Listener

Want to make someone feel special? Your partner? Mother? Ole’ Gramps? Neighbour? Niece? The barista you see twice a day every day?

You don’t need to give fancy spa vouchers to someone to make them feel special (although that’s nice, obvs!). You don’t have to whisk them off for a fancy razzle dazzle dinner (although that is also nice, Café Hanoi if you are asking). There is a far simpler and more powerful way to make someone feel special.

I call it Deep Listening. For someone to feel completely seen. Completely heard. Completely understood. And completely and utterly special.

You just need to LISTEN.

Not just with your ears but with your HEART too. Listen WITHOUT the intent to rush in and FIX IT. Listen WITHOUT the rush to judge, mentor, compare or provide a solution. Listen WITHOUT the intent to pile straight in and say, “oh yes, me too, it was so awful when I had an experience a bit like that”, and segue into your own stuff without giving their experience time to breathe.

Listen without splitting your focus to the TV or your phone.

Deep Listen.

Listen with the intent to hear what is NOT being said, as much as what IS being said.

Listen with interest: even if it’s not of natural interest to you. Listen with the intent to understand what might make that interesting to them. Why is your sister so craycray about cross stitch / cross fit /cross country?  What can she see that you can’t?

Listen between the lines. Listen behind the, “I’m fine”. Listen beyond the platitudes.

The rarest and most special gift of all in this frenetic, ultra-connected, multitasking era is the gift of true attention and deep listening.

When someone feels truly seen and truly heard without judgement, you have given them something far more valuable than any spa voucher.

How do you deep listen?

Firstly, you ask some simple open-ended questions.

Secondly, you actually listen to the responses.

Thirdly, you are genuinely interested in the content of the answer.

Then, you ask some more questions and dig a little deeper. Not rocket science, clearly. It’s rare, yes, but it’s not hard.

Here are a few Deep Listening Questions to get you going:

  • Tell me more about that…
  • That does sound tough. What else happened?
  • How did that make you feel?
  • How did you know that was the right thing for you?
  • What worries you the most about that? 
  • Is there anything else about that that bothers you? 
  • I so get that. Makes perfect sense to me. What else is on your mind about it?  
  • What would help you most right now?
  • What do you wish people understood about what you have going on right now?
  • That’s interesting/sad/downright terrifying. Tell me more about it.
  • That sounds so fun/exciting/crazy-pants unusual! Tell me more about how that came about.
  • What a cool experience/person/opportunity. What was the real highlight for you?

The easiest of these to remember is “Tell me more about that…” you can repeat that to fade. It’s the ultimate Deep Listening tool. If you remember one, that’s the one for any occasion. That’s the Swiss Army Knife of Deep Listening.

If you are disconnected from someone special, the chances are high that you have not properly listened to them for a long, long time. You have surface listened but not deep listened. You have had functional conversations but not profound ones. That you know what is going on with them but at a superficial logistical level. It’s an exchange of top level logistics. That’s fine and it keeps things ticking along: but if you want someone to feel special, give them the gift of deep listening. Park your own stuff way past the point where you want to jump in and deep listen.

Don’t let yourself off the hook with “I’m too busy” or “I’m not good at it”. That’s a cop-out and you know it (tough love: you are welcome). Deep listening used to be an integral part of the human experience back in the days where we would have been huddled around the fire after supper without multiple screens to amuse and distract us. Our entertainment and connection would have come from the people around us, not the TV or our Facebook feed. Deep Listening would have been a way of life. There would have been the time and the space for it.

Not so much now: we have so many more competing demands on our time and attention. However, what that means is it raises the value of Deep Listening, as so few people actually extend themselves enough to practice it. It makes it even more valuable when you do do it. Hence the power of deep listening to make someone feel special. It’s rare, so it’s instantly, massively special.

You can completely transform your relationship with someone by busting out some well chosen Deep Listening questions and truly listening to the answers.

The bottom line is this: it’s not enough to ask someone special how their day was, if you are not really listening to the answer.

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