Presentations – Stand Out Tip – Listen Actively

Standing out is a function of how your present yourself to others and how you react to others. The ability to be a good listener is a strong stand out quality.

However, you need to recognize what good listening is not. Obviously, it is not marginal listening — giving half an ear to the speaker while you’re watching television, reading the paper, or working on your computer. You might be surprised to know it’s also not evaluative listening — where you do hear the gist of what the speaker says, but you’re evaluating the content so you can prepare your response. The dead giveaway when you use this type of listening is when your response starts out with, “Yes, but…”

The best and most powerful form of listening is “active listening.” It fulfills two very basic human needs-to be heard and to be understood. There are three crucial steps to active listening. Think of the acronym EAR to help you remember these steps:

ENGAGE THE SPEAKER. In other words, show the speaker that you’re listening by looking him in the eye, nodding occasionally, showing appropriate facial expressions (a smile for good news, concern for distressing news). Project open and relaxed body language. Also keep in mind that total silence does not imply listening. Give vocal signals such as: “mm-hmm,” “yes,” “really?,” “I see,” etc.

ACTUALLY HEAR WHAT’S BEING SAID. This means you have to pay attention and process the information. You must concentrate on the content of the message, which is what the speaker is saying, plus the intent, which is what she’s feeling or what she means. It may help by repeating to yourself her key words or main ideas and also observing the nonverbal cues she’s giving.

RESPOND APPROPRIATELY. This third step is the key to effectively wielding the power of listening. Instead of saying, “Yes, but…”, you let the other party know you’ve heard and understood him. It can take three forms:

1. Paraphrasing. This means repeating the gist of the message. It’s generally preceded by, “So what you’re saying is…” or “In other words…” or “If I understand you correctly…” The ability to do this lets the speaker know you did in fact hear the content of what he said. The amazing thing about paraphrasing is that once people feel like you heard them, they can be more receptive and open to what you have to say.

2. Probing. This is a particularly important technique in diffusing the tension that comes with disagreement. After the speaker has made a statement, instead of launching into your rebuttal, you probe for more information. “Why do you think that?” “What’s the downside to that?” “Can you give me some examples?” This lets the speaker know you’re interested in hearing his side, which in turn will make him more likely to listen to your side. 

3. Reflecting back feelings. This is the finer-tuned skill of interpreting how the speaker feels about what she said. “You must be so proud,” or “That certainly must have made you angry,” or “I imagine you’re very hurt by that…” are examples of reflecting. This is the ultimate validation a speaker can receive: being heard and being understood. When you give that gift to others, it opens doors, breaks down barriers, reduces anger, decreases resistance.

 Listening actively is a magical skill. Its mastery can have a profound, positive impact on giving you “stand out” presence.

Why Be Pre-Occupied? “Just Being Present” – Part 2

Being in the lion’s pit of life is interesting at times, isn’t it? This is real tongue-in-cheek stuff. One day or even one afternoon can present so many opportunities to become waylaid with worries, fears and anxieties… enough to last the rest of the day, and into the next, easy!

But, this is where control over the mind and our mental processes can come to our rescue.

Recently, I had the privilege of reading an extraordinary piece of wisdom titled, “Practicing awareness in everyday life.”[1] It’s all about the subject of awareness; the skill of staying in the present. The author says it’s the most important skill that we could acquire.

The issue is about how much of our awake time we spend partially or completely distracted from our present activities, because we’re focused on the past or future–”neither of which exist.”

As we experience life, there are so many things that have just gone or are about to hit us that consume our ordinary thinking. This leaves us drained of the attention we could place in the present. No wonder we struggle to listen to people properly half the time.

This subject is all about staying ‘in the truth.’ It’s about sticking with our senses and what they tell us to feel, in the moment. We’re told to focus, particularly around decision-making, on what we’re actually thinking, feeling, saying and doing–that is, we need to be intimately aware of ourselves.

Even simple tasks such as brushing our teeth should require all our ‘manual’ attention. The objective here is to train the mind to think manually, and resist our preponderance to go into mental autopilot. We should “practise awareness until we can operate ‘automatically on manual’, so we can choose to ‘manually go to automatic’.”

What this means is once we’re trained to be aware at will, we then have the ability to become more competent over our attitudes; we become ‘attitudinally competent.’ We can then screen out the unhelpful emotional distractions, scheduling our focus on these for times when we wish to deliberately reflect on the past and plan for the future. We effectively hold the moment (emotionally) and deal with it at a predetermined time later.

We should become adept at being a silent observer of ourselves, being attuned to our thoughts, feelings, words and actions. There is no more basic a goal for a person to have than to become self-aware, and that continually so.

We must resist allowing our minds to wander and meander in undisciplined ways; sure, when we watch a movie and want to relax, a free mind is fine; but truly, do we think an unfocused mind dribbling through the immediate past or near future is helpful? It can’t possibly be and “running of ‘old part-fiction movies’ is insanity.”

Reflection and planning must be restricted to “fully truthful” aspects. We need to determine what truth there is, sifting out the innuendo and assumptions.

So, let’s get to work on not being pre-occupied mentally and simply stay in the moment practicing awareness. Even during so-called stressful times, we’ll benefit from the fresh perspective and strength that comes as a result.

Are You Fully Present?

I think a lot of people yearn to be fully present. They want to live in the moment and breath in life as it is happening. Some people believe this is one of the keys to living in peace, to being truly joyful, to appreciating everything, to being grateful! In our fast paced lives, I don’t think too many people even know how to be present. This is a very hard thing to do, because, in this busy life we live, we are constantly planning for whatever is ahead of us, worrying about the future, regretting the past, and planning accordingly. We are making appointments, checking our schedules, looking at our watches, running late, worrying about this and that, and trying to live up to unrealistic standards.

To be fully present means that you are living in the moment. You are experiencing life, and living life. This means you are not thinking about the past or the future.

It is said that being present is the ultimate goal. To be present means that you are in this moment, and you are engaged in whatever you are doing. This means that you are fully aware… feeling, enjoying, and being. You are drinking in life, even if the present is challenging or difficult. You are learning, expanding, and growing.

Being in this state means that you are showing up for life and being fully engaged, not just tiredly walking through life like a zombie or rushing so fast that life just passes by in a blink… in either case, that is not feeling, enjoying, or truly living.

I realized I was not being fully present the other morning during my workout. I was going through the motions, but I was not concentrating on my body, how it was moving and feeling and responding. I was not concentrating on my breathing; I was not in tune with my muscles. My body was working out, but my mind was not. My mind was elsewhere. I was planning my day, my week, and the meals I wanted to prepare. I was thinking about the size of my television, and the room I was in. I was thinking that I needed to sweep the wood floor I was on. I was calculating how much time I had left until I needed to get into the shower. I actually was thinking of everything except what my body was doing, or why I was there in the first place.

Once I realized my mind was elsewhere, I began to tune in. All my senses became acute. I was listening to the music and feeling the beat and rhythm. I was watching the lady on my workout DVD and mirroring her movements. I was feeling each muscle contract and expand… I was focusing on how strong and tired they felt at the same time. I was visualizing how healthy and in shape my body is. I was paying attention to my thirst, and my breathing, and my body heat. As I became fully present, my spirit was lifted. I felt joy, even in the tired pain of my muscles. I became grateful in the moment. I was grateful for my body, for my muscles, for the time I had to work out, for my glass of water, for my energy.
I felt fulfilled… I felt energized… I felt alive!

Being fully present is very hard to do when we are doing something alone, like working out… but it is even harder to do when in a relationship or group setting. How many times are you in a conversation with someone and the other person is talking and you are not listening? You are either thinking about how you will answer them, or you are thinking about something totally different, or you are waiting and wishing they would stop talking. I’ve been there, and I think we all have. How wonderful and enlightening would it be to be fully present with your relationships! To drink up their emotions, to hear and feel each and every word they speak, to look into their eyes and read them, to touch their soul and let them touch yours… what a neat exchange we can create! How great if we really slowed down, looked into our children’s eyes, listened with intent, and were fully present with them!

Take Action:Let’s all try to be fully present this week. When we are alone, and when we are interacting with others let’s use all of our senses to enjoy “what is” and try not to let our minds wonder into the past or the future. No regrets, no guilt. Yes, we have to plan what we are making for dinner, but let’s be present while we are making it! Let’s appreciate our homes and our full refrigerators and the people we get to cook for! Yes, doing laundry isn’t the most fun thing to do… but let’s be present while we are doing it. Let’s be grateful we have clothes, a washer and dryer, and the time and resources to do it! Yes, it’s hard to listen to your child tell you a long-winded story, but let’s be grateful we get to listen to them and that they want to share their stories with us!
Be Fully Present… Be grateful!