Adopting a listening pose

That’s a phrase we’ve all heard before “adopting a listening pose” but, I would challenge anyone to answer, specifically, just how do you do that? Is it in the body language, is it in the percentage of time you’re actually listening (not just hearing!) versus speaking, or is it come combination of the two…and something else?  

1. Being a “listener” doesn’t necessarily imply not speaking
There is no perfect percentage for listening versus speaking to represent that you’ve fallen into the “listening pose”. I’m sure you can find a communications specialist or scientist to suggest one that has some concrete research behind it, but chances are it still only gets you to the perception that you listen more than you speak.

That’s well and good but the most important thing is that as you listen to another person, you provide the feedback that encourages them to continue. That can be simply nodding you head, maintaining reasonable eye contact, giving the verbal non-words of encouragement, and yes, even asking questions that show you want to hear more and dig deeper.

Still, yes, sometimes it means you need to actually be quiet, because

2. You need to give people space to formulate their thoughts and express them
And you also need to give yourself to mental space to hear those thoughts and to integrate them into your view or to let your view be changed by what you hear. (More on this later).

I once heard a speaker emphasize that we think 3-4x faster than someone can speak. So, part of adopting a “listening pose” is recognizing the speed gap and adjusting for it.

In short: if you want someone to tell you something, be quiet and let them.

3. The “pose” part is more important than you think
You are having a misery of a day, so miserable that it feels painful to even smile, but you know that you need ‘keep your face on’ and so you do. All day, people who know you well, keep stopping you to say: “Hey, is everything okay? Are you alright?”

It’s not accidental. Your non-verbal body language, much of it out of your control, has projected some bit of your misery, and people can pick up on it.

On the flip side, maybe you’re having a great day – maybe you’re super-engaged, you want to hear all sides of what’s going on, you’re intent and focused and you keep getting the questions: “Are you angry? Is something wrong?” (Speaking from experience here, sometimes things get mistaken).

What I’m saying is that the pose part of “listening pose” needs to be addressed where it can. Don’t fake it, obviously, but be aware of your physical space and position and how it can be read or misread, and adjust accordingly where reasonable.

4. Letting your view be changed
The difference between merely hearing something and listening is that one is passive and one is active. You can passively hear something and not react or you can actively listen and then react in a way that shows that you got the point!

We all have our preconceptions and ideas — in the work environment, we often have patterns of behaviors, habits, and approaches to handling issues and challenges we’ve developed over years and they’re generally good. That doesn’t mean they are perfect and so for us to continue to grow we need to remain open to learning new things and seeing the world in a different way.

More than you would expect, the manner through which those growth and learning opportunities come are from other people, not from books, pithy quotes, or random inspiration. Therefore, the “listening pose” is also one about opening yourself up, mentally and emotionally, to new things.

So, that’s it?
Not really but it’s a start. The above is just entry-level but it’s something anyone can do immediately and start to see immediate results. I could talk about not multi-tasking, and reducing distracting elements like cellphones and email notifications, et al., but I think the principles speak for themselves:

  1. Speak in a way that encourages continued conversation; engage people and spur them onwards
  2. Literally not saying a word can give the other person a chance to think and then speak more surely their thoughts
  3. Get to know your body language and what it’s saying for you
  4. Be an active listener; be open to change that may come from what you hear

Are there any tips or stories you have about how you’ve adopted a listening pose and what works for you?


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