Nlp and Listening Skills
Nlp and Listening Skills
NLP & Listening Skills
Did you know that ‘listening’ is a serious field of study at major universities?
Most of us think we are good listeners. But, how many times in the last month did you experience being totally “heard,” or “gotten” by another human being. If you are like most people, it just doesn’t happen all that often, or at least, not nearly enough.
Listening is more than just hearing. When I talk about “listening” in business training seminars, I am not talking about simply what a person hears, I am talking about what in necessary for the other person in the communication to experience to be heard. As a Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming or NLP, I am talking about the whole communication cycle. Consider the NLP Presupposition, “The meaning of your communication is the response you get.” MEANING is not a function of your intention, but is a function of how effectively you communicate to make sure the meaning is understood.
In Cognitive Psychology, the most basic model of communication is:
Information IN à Information OUT.
You talk. I listen. Pretty simple so far?
Now, let’s expand the model. Somewhere between Info In and Info Out we somehow make sense of the information we are exposed to on a daily basis. We take information in via our Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic (feeling) channels. This information is processed through the nervous system and brain. And we make an Internal Representation about what the information means to us.
OK! Next level of complexity. (And, somewhat outside the realm of NLP and into Listening Theory)
Basic human programming is that we are very good at sizing situations up quickly. From the evolutionary point of view, if there is a tiger on the path, we have to know instinctively whether it is hungry and in search of food. If it is sizing you up for food, you had better be ready to react quickly or you won’t pass along your gene pool to the next generations. The problem is that we size people up very quickly too. Usually that is a good thing, and sometimes it is limiting. Occasionally, we make mistakes about people. Once we get an idea of how a person is, then it is very difficult to change our opinion of that person. As you know, some people will go to great lengths to ‘be right.’
Ladies (and men), do you know a man who is known as a womanizer? If you do, I’m curious, how do you know? Well, you have evidence, don’t you? Maybe you’ve had an experience like this. A friend of co-worker told you that a particular man is a womanizer. Then you see this man out dancing with an attractive woman. The very next day, you see that man at lunch with a different woman. What is the first thought that comes to mind? Don’t you assume that the two lunch partners are in a romantic relationship. After all, you now have evidence, don’t you? Even if it is possible that the man is having lunch with his Sister, that is not the automatic connection you make, is it? The problem is that, as humans, once we decide that a person is a certain way, it is very difficult to change our view.
We make up ideas about people based on gross generalizations or stereotypes. We all experience the world through our own unique set of filters. If you are told that a person is a policeman, what generalizations do you make about what the person is like? If someone you know is an alcoholic, how likely are you to believe they will stop drinking just because they say they will? If you find out that a woman is from a southern city in the USA, what do think that person will be like? What are your beliefs about people who are from New York, or California, or Canada, Texas, London, or Japan?
When you have an idea that a person is hard-headed and that they never listen, how do you begin to behave around that person? Are you more careful? Do you become more forceful, or avoid confrontations with them? But then, what if the person changes? How much room do you have to experience that person in a new and different way? If you are like most people, you don’t have that not much room for people to change the ‘way they are.’
I say there is a cost to the compensating behaviors we have in response to our own belief mechanisms toward others and even toward ourselves. All this, I consider as inside the concept of “listening.”
For most people, beliefs about “how people are” operates at such a deep emotional level in programming that we are not aware we are making value judgments about other people. For the individual, the value judgment is the TRUTH. It does not occur to us as a viewpoint or even as a belief about the other person. In addition, we tend to believe that everyone else sees that person the same way we do, as if it should be obvious to anyone.
In a business environment, this is a potentially big problem. The people in a particular company all have to work together. Ideally, you expect there to be a commitment of team members to each other. That is one of the marks of an exceptional team and leads to exceptional achievement. Unfortunately, it is not necessarily the way things really are.
A common example is the manager with a particularly strong personality who holds a particular view about things. Although the intention is good, people are often afraid to express themselves and speak up about other viewpoints they may hold. Creativity suffers. People who are not being heard tend to develop blaming behaviors and relationships deteriorate. People feel they have no room to express themselves and productivity suffers. The manager, and therefore the company, does not listen. Stress increases and sick leave and other costs escalate. There are lots of examples of this.
It is hard to say that this behavior mechanism is necessarily bad or wrong. It is rooted in our basic nature as humans and is a defense mechanism. It is about survival at the deep, emotional level of who we are. The bigger question is, “How do I (we) break down the automatic nature of my (our) natural pattern-making behavior when I (we) find that it is limiting my (our) effectiveness and the quality of relationships?” The goal is freedom of choice about my (our) behavior, isn’t it? Too often, we just respond automatically.
As an NLP Trainer working with businesses I do seminars and executive coaching. Given the opportunity to do coaching and do seminars with individuals of an executive management team for 3.5 or 4.5 days, there is ample time to mine the collective experience of the team or group involved and to entrain (install) new behaviors. You are probably not much different than my business clients. Assuming that you are now becoming aware of areas where your intention to listen has fallen short, just becoming aware and examining the areas of your life where you might make new choices is valuable. In addition, you can call for a private consultation or inquire about a training program for your business. You can also find specific patterns that will help in my book, The Life-Change Patterns of NLP, by me Bill Thomason.
However, for the purposes of what we can do right here, right now, consider that one aspect of limiting listening is dealing with your LIMITING BELIEFS about yourself and others. NLP offers patterns that are designed to change limiting beliefs. Here is an exercise designed to help you bring limiting beliefs into conscious awareness. Take a piece of paper and write down at least 3 limiting beliefs you have about yourself. Write 3 limiting beliefs you have about others and then 3 that are about the world in general.
Put you list away for 24 hours and when you come back to it, consider what would be necessary to change the way you listen to others. What would you have to give up? Would it be the tendency to want to be right? What is the secondary gain or positive intent of not listening fully to people in your life and would happen if you were to give them a chance to be different from the limiting view of the way you believe that they are? It might not be immediately apparent, but don’t you think that some might rise to the occasion and surprise you by being great.
Now that brings up a very important thought. How much energy do spend on avoiding people and in compensating for the way you think they are? This could be an amazingly difficult exercise because you now operating in the area of your own blind spots, aren’t you? If you have attempted to make a particular change in your life and you have fallen short, you may have been trying to make a change that is inconsistent with your deeper level beliefs about who you are. Consider getting some outside facilitation in this case.
By Bill Thomason
Bill Thomason is your NLP Success Coach and Certified NLP Trainer providing resources for profound personal change and business excellence from Scottsdale, Arizona, USA.