I’m not a gardener; however I like growing roses and parsley and a few fruit trees. Not for any reason other than I like them and it’s about all I can cope with. I get green-eyed when I see my family creating incredible, edible and abundant gardens; however it’s just not my ‘thing’. Well not yet anyway! There is one thing I do know about growing things though, and it’s that plants do well when they have rich compost to feed the micro-organisms that are essential in keeping the growing process going.
And that’s how it is with a conversation too. A good conversation needs compost to keep it growing. These days there’s very little compost in our conversations. Frequently they are glib, superficial and often limited to “How are you? Busy?” and the respondent says “Yeah!” What? I often ask myself what’s the porpoise of such a dialogue? Where is the quality of the conversation? Even in meetings where people are actually ‘listening’, often they’re not really.
So what are they doing? To use a quote from Stephen Covey, ‘Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply’. To tell their story or how they did that cool thing too. Or perhaps they’re thinking about dinner!
A real conversation can be rich when it has the one essential micro-skill that keeps it growing and that’s listening! Ask yourself, how often do you really listen? And I mean really listen. That means turning off the hamster in your head and being totally present for your conversation partner. When you do this you will be given the gift of knowing a little more about how they see things, hear things and you’ll develop a connection with them that will make them feel better and you’ll feel great. I’ve heard it quoted that the greatest gift you can give someone is to truly listen and give them your time, and it’s free!
The quote I regularly use when coaching or training is also well-known; listening is the most used skill and least taught, meaning that the quality of the essential compost that keeps the other person enriched is often sub-standard. And the quality of the compost directly impacts on the growth of the plant. This means your conversation partner may feel unheard or ignored and simply switch off.
Which leaves me wondering how will we as a species continue to remain connected if we keep listening in a sub-standard way?
So how will you develop the compost of your conversation?
by Barbara Jaques
6 July 2016