Are you listening?

Of course we’re listening!

But not always to what others are saying to us.  We’re very often listening to our own thoughts and just tuning in when a response is needed.

We’ve all experienced conversations, where we are talking and the other person nods or responds with an “uh huh” or “yup” occasionally (but not always in the right place) and their eyes are just not with us.  It’s pretty deflating to be talking to someone who’s so wrapped up in their thoughts or whatever they are doing. Especially if it’s a meeting where you’re agreeing to do something or make changes and you leave half heartedly, knowing that what they agreed upon is unlikely to happen. Or worse, if you get on and do what you agreed, they will question it at a later date, claiming to know nothing about it.

I’m not talking about having a conversation with someone who is clearly not listening as they are checking their emails or texts or browsing a news site.  Those situations are easy to spot and you know for a fact they’re not tuned in to what you’re saying. The ones that aren’t so clear as so much more of a frustration and challenge. When “the lights are one but there’s no one home”, or when you realise someone is physically present, but not taking in what’s being said, there is little point in continuing. So there goes a wasted conversation or meeting.  And it doesn’t make you feel great, either. It shows little regard for you and demonstrates the fact that you and your opinions are not valued.

Or does it?

Have you ever been stressed? Too much to do, not enough time.  Staff or colleagues asking constant questions. emails streaming in, meetings scheduled.  No time to actually follow up with actions. Perhaps something is going wrong and you’ve got lots on your mind.

Sound familiar?

When all this is going on, are you good at listening to others? I mean really listening.  Or does your mind wander off to attend to all the stressful and worrying stuff, meaning that you’re unable to hear anything that’s being said.  You’re just willing them to go away so you can get on with all the other things on your long list. It’s not actually that you don’t respect them or don’t value their opinions, it’s just that you can’t focus on what they’re saying because you have other things on your mind.

You will probably agree that such a meeting is not going to be productive.

If you’re in this situation, the first thing to do is ask yourself if you’re going to be able to find a way of focusing on what’s being said.  If this is impossible at that moment in time, don’t carry on with the meeting.  This is not always possible, so ask yourself what is important at that moment in time. Realise the impact you have on someone if you’re not listening to them. If you’re very busy, agree to a set length of meeting, agree to a clear purpose or aim and make a commitment to being completely present for them for this set time.  They deserve that much, surely? (You might find this article on sticking to the AIM useful).

By being clear about how long you’ve got and what exactly you will discuss, and by listening carefully, less time will be wasted and all parties will feel more valued and clearer about what they need to do.

See if you can be more aware about how well you listen to others notice the impact on your time and relationships when you are better tuned in.

If you’d like to know more about how working with a coach can increase self awareness or if you’re interested in training your staff to listen better, get in touch.



Questions about coaching

Coaching Q & A

You might have got as far as thinking that working with a coach could benefit you, and you might have started doing a bit of research.   There are many coaching services on offer and so many different titles, terms and descriptions, it’s easy to be confused about what might work for you.

Here are some, hopefully, useful answers that might guide you towards choosing the coach to work with.

Read more

When was the last time…

You celebrated your achievements?

Working with a client recently, I was again reminded of how so many people never celebrate their achievements or success.  They power on to the next project without taking a moment to step back and congratulate themselves.  They might even go as far as congratulating their team, or those involved in the success, but seem to overlook actually giving themselves a pat on the back.

As a coach, I work with many people who are pretty driven and have high expectations.  They often expect more from themselves than they would ever dream of asking of others.  If they let themselves down, they berate themselves and continue cracking the whip. If you recognise this pattern as something you do, then you will know that it is pretty relentless, and enormously exhausting. No matter how successful you are, you rarely feel accomplished or successful.  Your mind just focuses on the negatives, the failings, and criticism.

Stop for a moment!

Ask yourself if this cycle is beneficial to you or those around you. If the answer is yes, then by all means, continue.  However, if there is even a tiny part of you that feels there must be another way, then take a break and think what you can do to change this behaviour. Continuing with this cycle can lead to burn out and stress, which is not something to head for lightly.

Starter for ten…

Here are three simple ways to take a moment to focus on your successes.

When did you last tell someone about your achievements? If you don’t feel comfortable about this, why not write some down. Be kind to yourself and realise that self-flagellation is not necessarily the only way to succeed. If you take a moment to focus on what you have achieved, it’s a moment to down tools, get some perspective, let some positive feelings flood your brain.  “But I may never get back to being a high achiever again – I might start slacking” is a response I often hear. Ask yourself ‘who is in control?’ Are you likely to suddenly change a lifetime of hard working to become switched off? Challenge that belief, and know that you can take a break without the fear of losing your drive for ever. It’s highly likely that after a moment of self congratulation, you will approach the next project with renewed enthusiasm and greater energy levels.

Imagine yourself at the age of 85, looking back on your life. How will it feel if you realise you never stopped to look at what you’d accomplished? Take 20 minutes to ask yourself this question, as see where it takes you.

If you struggle to take a break and notice your achievements, you might benefit from looking into methods of achieving mindfulness, of increasing your ability to focus on now instead of pushing on to the future. There is plenty available online to inspire you.

Try the above, and let me know how it goes.