Unlock your listening blind spots with this puzzle

Oscar Trimboli
Jul 16 · 11 min read

Written by Oscar Trimboli

The cost of NOT listening in your organisation means projects run behind schedule and over budget, customers pick your competition and great staff leave because their managers aren’t listening. Not listening could mean a loss of market share or you could attract the interest of the media or regulators.

You see in colour, yet you listen in black and white. Deep Listening is listening in full Technicolor rather than monochrome.

The cost of listening poorly is vast. Confusion, conflict, chaos and additional costs for teams and organisations.

You spend more than half your day listening yet only 2% of people know how to listen.

The more senior you are, the more of your day you listen. Board members and executives spend 83% of their day listening.

The 20th century has focussed on only half of the communications puzzle — speaking.

Listening the other half of communications is the leadership hack of the 21st century.

Designed with input from World Leading Listening Academics, Global leaders in adult education and research based on 1,410 people exploring their listening barriers, this workshop immediately shines a light on your listening blind spots.

Tracey explained after the workshop “Once I knew my own Listening Villain — I can never unlearn it — it’s like a tattoo in my brain”

Awareness is the first step to unlock the listening barriers in your team and at your organisation. The Deep Listening Workshop does this in 90 minutes and transforms participants listening effectiveness permanently.

If you are looking for an exercise for your next offsite, team meeting, company or sales kick off, people manager training, graduate training program, executive meeting or planning retreat — this unique, world class and researched backed workshop is for you. https://oscartrimboli.com/futureevents/

In July 2017, during a workshop with a group of advertising agency CEOs, I was shocked that when I explained about people’s listening blind spots the CEOs leaned in, focused, laughed and learned more about their listening barriers compared to my explanation about good listening behaviour.

Listening is situational and relational.

You listen differently to your parent’s than the police or politicians.

The Four Villains of Listening

Think of the worst listener you know. Think of the last time you spoke to them. Now think of them through the perspective of the Four Villains of Listening.

1. The Dramatic Listener — You love creating drama and exploring every element of the discussion. Rather than helping the speaker progress, you get stuck in the detail and dissecting the historical events and patterns that have led you to the discussion. You are so engrossed and engaged in the story that you become completely preoccupied in the theatre of the drama.

2. The Interrupting Listener — You’re so focused on finding a solution to the problem that you finish the speaker’s sentences for them. You feel they are moving too slowly in describing the issue, so you listen with the intent of solving, rather than their intent of being curious. You interrupt and interject, creating all kinds of confusion. You are busy solving problems the speaker hasn’t yet verbalised.

3. The Lost Listener — You’re in your own mind rather than in the conversation. You are so absorbed with your self-talk you don’t create enough space for the dialogue to land in your mind, you are so busy thinking about your last thought or your next thought that you can’t focus on the discussion. You are lost before you even turn up.

4. The Shrewd Listener — You’re too busy trying to solve the issue before listening to the explanation. You might be shrewd enough to wait patiently and not interrupt the speaker, but you are anticipating the future, trying to solve the problem before you’ve heard it or understood it all. You have forgotten to be present and to listen completely.

What was more shocking for the advertising agency CEO’s was what I said next.

The person you are thinking about, the one person that frustrates you most about how they listen to you and their Listening Villain is your greatest listening blind spot.

The same is true for you and it’s NOT. It a wonderful paradox because, listening is situational and relational

You are all Four Listening Villain in different discussions.

My dominant Listening Villain is Shrewd Listening — I am always trying to solve problems before they are fully explained. This is true for me in the workplace. Yet in home situations, The Lost Listener shows up the most for me.

The easiest way to remember the Four Villains of Listening — They are DILS of listening. D for Dramatic, I for Interrupting, L for Lost and S for Shrewd. Did you known, Dill in Australian slang is someone who acts silly.

When I explain the Four Villains of Listening during my keynotes or workshops, many people ask me who are the Listening Superheroes ? If your curious to learn more you can explore the Superheroes in the book Deep Listening — Impact beyond words.

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

Bryant H. McGill

Whether it’s an Anthropologists, FBI Hostage Negotiator, High Court Judge, Lifeline Counsellor, Journalists, or Foreign Language Interpreters — I’ve listened hundreds of guests on the Apple Award Winning Podcast Deep Listening about what is great listening as well are the barriers and blockages.

Deep Listening is the ability to listen simultaneously at Five Levels of Listening.

The Five Levels of Listening

Managers are good at hearing and leaders are great at listening.

The difference between listening and hearing is exploring all the dimensions of the dialogue, not just the words.

I have the privilege of listening to and hearing from employees, managers, leaders, founders and business owners. I get to listen to stories, presentations, struggles and opportunities across a wide range of industries.

Traditional theories about listening to others has its focus on the intention and attention on the speaker. Traditional listening theories outlines a series of techniques about paraphrasing and ensuring all the attention is on the speaker.

It’s useful, yet lacks impact.

This is just the start of listening — I want to propose another approach. Listen beyond the words so you can hear what the other person means, rather than what they say.

There are Five Levels of listening that can help you become a deeper listener which creates an impact rather than an impasse.

Listen to yourself before you listen to the speaker

Level One — Paradoxically, Deep Listening to others starts with listening to you first rather than listening to others. Listen deeply to yourself before you start the process of listening to others.

Clear space in your own mind to make room to hear others.

The Deep Listening Playing Cards are designed to help create a foundation for impactful listening. There are Five Suits with 10 cards in each suit. Each card is organised in a consistent format — The Concept, The Explanation, A Tip and Questions you can ask yourself or the speaker.

The Deep Listening Playing Cards have been used in prisons and with school principals.

They have been used by individuals to practice and improve one narrow part of listening daily. Individuals and their managers have used them to improve the effectiveness of their regular one on one meetings. They have been used by sales teams in their weekly meetings as a technique to explore different approaches through skilful questions. They have been used in German, The Netherlands, Canada and the USA.

Two of my favourite Deep Listening Playing Cards are the You card and Your Breathing card. The You card invites you to Listen to yourself before you commence listening to someone else. Clear the space in your mind before you start to listen to the speaker. The You card poses the question — How deeply am I breathing?

The Your Breathing card explains that The deeper you’re breathing the deeper you’re listening. This all happens before you engage with the speaker and it only needs 5 to 10 seconds to centre you and make you present. The Tip it invites you to explore Breathe deeper and longer than normal.

I explore Level One Listening in much greater depth in a two part podcast dealing with getting ready to listen and dealing with distractions.

If you are leadership consultant or a human resources leader inside an organisation, I have an online course just for you about how, when and where to use the Deep Listening Playing Cards in your leadership development courses, graduate programs, sales kick-offs, executive retreats and annual planning offsites. https://oscartrimboli.com/futureevents/

If you are a people manager in an organisation, I am currently developing a Managers Masterclass for Deep Listening. If you would like to be involved in the prototype of the Deep Listening Manager Masters Class, it will involve 30 minutes of your time to help make the course impactful for your listening. Email oscar@oscartrimboli.com with the subject DL Masterclass for next steps.

Level Two — Exploring the landscape of the content — the words are the most common way we are taught to listen and it is critically important to those who are speaking. People are taught techniques like active listening and paraphrasing. This 2014 Harvard Business Review article deals with one dimension of this Three Ways Leaders Can Listen with More Empathy. Yet I think this only begins to scratch the surface of good listening. There are many deeper and richer layers to explore.

Ting is the Chinese character which means “To Listen”. It’s ancient wisdom teaches much more about listening to the content than just hearing the words. Ting explains that listening is multidimensional.

Ting

Most people listen with their ears and occasionally with their eyes. Ting invites you to explore an extra listening dimension — listen for energy — listen to what they feel.

Level Three- Thoughtful and provoking questions can help you clarify your situational understanding. These questions can help the other person explore a much broader context and landscape in their thinking and consequentially you both discover a richer range of alternatives, rather an ultimatum. Some examples of clarifying questions include:

  • What assumptions have you made to reach this conclusion?
  • What would your customers or stakeholders say if they heard this discussion?
  • Is this true in all circumstances?

In my interview with Behavioural Scientist Allan Parker he elegantly explores the role of assumptions, bias and how to overcome those issues when listening. I particularly enjoyed this interview with Allan because he deconstructed the way I was listening to him during the interview. This kind of listening requires an elevated state of consciousness and self-awareness.

Level Four — Most people speak at 125 words per minute (wpm) (the range is 95 to 210 wpm), yet on average they can think at 900 wpm, (the range is 600 to 1,600 wpm).

125/400 Rule

The likelihood that the first thing out of their mouth is what they are thinking — there is a 1 in 9 chance (11%) what they say is what they actually think.

The simplest way to close the gap between the two during a dialogue is by regularly exploring the space or the gap between what they want to say and what they said. What’s interesting to me is what you didn’t say? I have found this question to be most powerful in helping someone else deepen their understanding of what they were exploring.

Dave Stachowiak from the Coaching for Leaders Podcast interviewed me about listening for what’s unsaid. We spend a lot of time in this interview talking about the Level Four Listening — Listening for Unsaid.

I’m obsessed about the commercial cost of NOT Listening. Salesforce is a global software company focused on the success of salespeople and their impact. Vanessa Haney spent a lot of time when interviewing me about the cost of not listening in sales situations and what to do about it.

Level Five — The focus is on what meaning the other person is making of the discussion. Meaning can be created for the person speaking, the person listening and collectively what meaning is created by the conversation. Listening at the level of meaning, helps us to make sense of the discussion and it informs a wide range of perspectives and possibilities going forward. It helps each party understand what is different in their thinking compared to when the conversation started.

You can listen to my interview with Dr Jason Fox about exploring meaning in teams and group about facilitation in depth.

Sarah Manley and David Christie from Innovation Arts explain how to listen for meaning in organisational, group and team settings. When you can help a group of people make a breakthrough when you listen to what they say and what they mean, this creates a transformational impact for the individual and the group — an impact beyond words.

This shows up during individual discussions, team meetings and workshops. Dr Jason Fox interviewed me on the topic of facilitating in depth. In this interview there is a great story about the difference between listening for eagles and listening for snakes in group stories and its impact. Encouraging and exploring meaning for groups creates an impact beyond words and their organisation.

Every human wants to be listened to — yet what they crave is to be heard.

Learn more about the what’s getting in the way of your listening — Download The Five Myths of Listening

If you are leadership consultant or a human resources leader inside an organisation, I have an online course just for you about how, when and where to use the Deep Listening Playing Cards in your leadership development courses, graduate programs, sales kick-offs, executive retreats and annual planning offsites. https://oscartrimboli.com/futureevents/

If you are a people manager in an organisation, I am currently developing a Managers Masterclass for Deep Listening. If you would like to be involved in the prototype of the Deep Listening Manager Masters Class, it will involve 30 minutes of your time to help make the course impactful for your listening. Email oscar@oscartrimboli.com with the subject DL Masterclass for next steps

Oscar Trimboli is on a quest to create 100 million Deep Listeners in the world. He is an author, Host of the Apple Award winning podcast — Deep Listening and a sought-after keynote speaker. He is passionate about using the gift of listening to bring positive change in workplaces and the world.

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Oscar Trimboli

Written by

Oscar Trimboli is on a quest to create 100 million Deep Listeners. He is an author, Host of the Apple Award winning podcast Deep Listening www.oscartrimboli.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +524K people. Follow to join our community.

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