There’s plenty out there on how to deliver our message for maximum impact – but we are all listeners too. And how we listen and the filters we use in listening can determine much about what we absorb, the nature of our relationships and the actions we ultimately decide to take in our lives and businesses, and in our world. Here’s a chance to gauge our natural inclinations as listeners – what we listen for, and what we listen with. Let’s be clear, we all use some form of all three modes of listening for different situations, but let’s see if you can determine whether you are primarily a Head, Heart or Hands listener.
If you listen primarily with your Head you are paying attention to the history of something, the known and the proven. For this reason, we could consider this type of listening as focused on the past. The intent is largely to get the facts straight, and the content and data correct. This kind of focused listening is superb for determining details, established patterns and routines, unencumbered by distracting emotional nuance.
Quick example: Your need to investigate a security breech within your department. In interviewing members of your team, you need them to calmly restate their exact actions and decisions within established protocols in order to determine what went wrong. You will use Head listening to get “just the facts, ma’m.”
As a Heart listener, you are looking for the truth beneath the content: you pay attention to the present circumstances: any body messaging, tone of voice, descriptive language, and whether the content is congruent with that message being delivered. Heart listening is what we deploy when a situation demands empathy – a sense of truly being heard and understood. Heart listening is also what we engage when we need to determine the emotional truth of the information we hear. In a data-driven culture, it can be difficult to tune in to Heart listening unless we find a way to filter out the content.
Quick Example: A politician gives a speech on tv. He looks very polished, he’s saying all the right things, but something about him doesn’t “feel” sincere. When you turn down the sound, you realize that when he smiles, his eyes are not engaged. Heart listening has signaled to you some incongruence in his words and his delivery.
Determining Hands listening is a little trickier, as this type of filter is actively looking for problems to solve and actions to take. It is focused on the future, not the present or the past. The question needing to be answered with this kind of listening is “What’s next?” “How do we fix this?” “What can we DO about it?” “What can we change to get better results?” It’s a listening that tries to create a “map” as a means toward a better future.
Quick Example: A wife is extremely upset about something that happened at work today and her husband is trying to help but he can’t get a word in anywhere. In exasperation he finally shouts “What do you want me to DO about it?!” He’s employing Hands listening here – looking for possible actions to take to help his wife. She, in fact, may simply need him, at this moment, to employ Heart Listening, which she makes clear with “I just need you to LISTEN to me!”
So, do you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions? I’m inviting you to be a little more conscious next time active listening is required of you… experiment with different types of listening, you might even challenge yourself to use the listening modality that comes least naturally to you, just as an interesting exercise!
Need a learning event for your team to develop deeper listening? My group facilitation tool Shift/POV can get them there in an hour – or less! See more here. And thanks for “listening”!