Have you ever talked to someone about doing a job for you, and then listened for how much it was going to cost you? Now usually that’s the last thing they’ll tell you, so sometimes, as you are waiting to hear the fee, you can miss details about their services.
Or maybe you got called into your boss’s office around the time layoffs were happening. Probably you were listening for if you still have a job or not. Whatever the boss said before that, was ‘Blah, blah, blah.’ What did you miss?
When we listen, whether we know it or not, we are listening for something. If we have low self-esteem, we might be listening for criticism. If we think the person we are talking to is intelligent, we might be listening for what she says that is brilliant. If we have a strong opinion about something, we might be listening for agreement or non-agreement.
This is a very simple concept. ‘Listening for’ occurs unconsciously, based on the unexamined judgments that we have about others, the world and ourselves. What we are ‘listening for’ is a reflection of our judgments and worldview. Until we get more aware of what that is, we are at the mercy of our own limitations.
Since what you hear depends on what you’re listening for, how can you expand your listening? Experiment with these two ideas and see what happens:
1. When you have conversations, become aware of what you are listening for. This takes honesty and some insight. You might need to slow down a little bit to notice.
2. See what happens when you change what you’re listening for. For example:
- Next time you listen to someone who you judge as being boring, expand your listening to hear what he says that is extraordinary.
- If you feel critical of yourself, expand your listening to hear the complimentary things people say to you.
- Instead of listening for what’s wrong as you watch the nightly news, listen for what the opportunities are.
- When you hear someone complain, listen for the gap in the market where you could make some money.