Mindful communication begins with active listening. But often it’s the unsaid that provides the most critical link to mutual understanding.
Intuitive listening means the ability to read between the lines, to pick up on the unspoken clues that hint at a larger story behind the words. By practicing the skill of intuitive listening, leaders can make better decisions, build stronger relationships and resolve problems more quickly.
Here are 7 ways to develop your own intuitive listening skills for positive results:
1) Remove or minimize distractions.
Distractions can be defined as anything that gets in the way of your ability to focus on what the other person is saying. External distractions like electronic communications, environmental noise and clutter can interfere with attentiveness. But internal distractions like physical exhaustion, preoccupation and personal bias also play an important role in intuitive listening.
2) Face the speaker.
Facing the speaker demonstrates your respect and willingness to hear what the person has to say. By demonstrating your alertness, interest and concern for the speaker, you increase the chances that the speaker will open up to you. Facing each other also gives you the opportunity to take in the entire scene and hone your observation skills.
3) Get comfortable with silence.
Silence provides a space to help connect the dots between the spoken and the unspoken. Curb the impulse to react, interrupt or respond to the words you hear. Instead, listen with all of your senses for the speaker’s hidden messages that can illuminate the bigger picture.
4) Pay attention to body language.
Body language alone won’t tell you everything you need to know in a two-way interaction. But the body does send out signals that indicate a person’s comfort level. Rather than attribute specific meaning to a particular gesture (“He’s not making eye contact. He obviously has something to hide.”), consider whether the overall body language fits with the person’s spoken message.
5) Listen for discrepancies between the words and tone of voice.
When a conflict occurs between the spoken words and tone of voice, which do you trust – the emotional intent behind the words or the tone of voice? According to participants in Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s classic study, the tone of voice takes precedence over the words. To boost your people reading skills, listen for any discrepancies between the two.
6) Check in with your body.
As you listen to the spoken words, ask yourself: “How do I feel about this?” “What’s my comfort level right now?” Pay attention to your physical or emotional reaction. Follow your impulse to see where those feelings lead. Try to untangle any knots in the relationship between your feelings and observations relative to the verbal messages you hear. What associations can you make based on previous experience?
7) Ask open-ended questions.
Explore your body’s reactions further by asking questions to help clarify the source of your feelings. Open-ended questions often encourage conversation that provides more in-depth information. More information can help resolve any uncertainties or lingering questions.
How do you develop your intuitive listening skills?