How to listen deeply in meetings
Meetings are all about communication. Without communication, your meeting would not exist. And communication is as much about listening as about sharing, conveying a message.
Communication is giving and receiving
The word ‘communication’ has a Latin origin of which the root is mun. The Latin munus means service or duties offered publicly. In ancient Rome, the communicatio generally involved tangible goods. The word has then evolved and found its way into European languages leading to words as community and communication. But also a word such as meaning. So communication is all about giving and receiving and that automatically involves the other.
Talking is a way for us to communicate. There are more, but for this post, I’ll stick to talking. You give your words, ideas, thoughts, stories, etc…. And with it comes the receiving end: listening.
Now most of us acknowledge that our listening skills are far from perfect. Many of the meetings I run also involve some reflection on one’s own behaviour. And every single time I ask about the nest, the answer is invariably: better listening.
So we train this skill. Usually the training involves elements like: paying attention, deferring judgement, and asking the right feedback questions. But most of these methods don’t get to the core of what listening is really about.
The trap of the inner voice
They don’t help bring to silence the inner voice in your head that is still rambling on. It’s possible to listen closely for a couple of seconds, maybe even minutes. But in the end, the inner voice will take over and start judging, wandering and do lot’s of other things that are way more interesting than listening to the (often boring) speaker at the other side of the meeting table.
So the trick is to shut down your inner voice. How? By mirroring. I’ve already written on the subconscious effect mirroring has on the impact of our communication. Here is a method that brings mirroring to the conscious surface.
Learn the skill of listening deeply in just 5 minutes
Mirroring is simple and easy. Let’s assume your colleague is presenting the latest development in the field. Even though you’re interested, your mind thinks differently and wanders off. Now to avoid that, you start mirroring. Mirroring is nothing more than repeating in your mind what your colleague says at exactly the same moment the words leave his or her mouth.
That sounds strange and impossible to do, but it’s actually a skill you can learn in 5 minutes. The 5 minutes may sound oddly little, but it’s from my own hands-on experience. So trust me on this one.
Try it with a couple of colleagues in a quiet place (e.g. an empty meeting room). Make 1 of the participants speak about a random topic:
- Minute 1 and 2: Repeat the words of the speaker at a normal volume, loudly.It might be necessary for the person speaking to slow down a bit, but within seconds you will notice that it’s possible to speed up and say the same things as your speaker in just one voice. (I’ve done it with a group of 40.)
- Minute 3 and 4: Still go on with repeating the words but now just move your lips in silence.The speaker should now be able to speed up his or her talking without having to take care of the listeners.
- Minute 5: Stop moving your lips and just repeat the words in your head.
That’s it! Now you can mirror what someone is saying in every situation. As long as you mirror the words, your inner voice is busy and you’ll become a keen listener without even having to think about it.
I’ve been using it for a while and it helps me tremendously in leading meetings effectively. Because I listen more carefully, I am more in the moment and able to react to what really concerns the participants.
So let me know how this simple method works out for you!
PS: Sue Walden introduced me to mirroring, so credits to her for this great method.