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Listening Is Of The Essence
By Deb Haggerty   Printer Friendly Version

Oh, great! Another article about listening. We all know that we're supposed to listen before we talk. We know about the listening responses, the uh-huhs, the nods that we're supposed to practice to indicate listening. We know we have to listen to what our contact is saying so we can respond intelligently and ensure we make the sale by meeting their needs. We know that listening once in a while is polite. So what's new?

What's new is "essence" listening, a term coined by Speaking Circle guru, Lee Glickstein. Essence listening goes way beyond the "techniques" we are encouraged to practice to truly listening to the essence of those with whom we are trying to communicate. Essence listening means taking the time to understand our audience, to receive from our listeners that which they can give us, to ensure we are connected before we begin speaking. Essence listening empowers both the audience and the speaker and creates a much greater impact that is available from speaking at them, or even to them. We are now speaking with them. Are there techniques involved? Sure - but once learned, they become part of our essence and being and therefore completely natural.

So what is essence listening? It is pausing before you speak to make a quality connection through your eyes with the person(s) with whom you are speaking. It is not just a quick glance to ensure they're looking at you and then plunging in, but a definite lingering with each person, letting them know through your eyes that you acknowledge their uniqueness, their humanness. Essence listening is maintaining that eye contact, person by person, not skipping around from face to face to face or "sweeping the room." Essence listening is maintaining eye availability and letting our audiences in effect "write our material" for us from their non-verbal responses. Truly allowing people to connect with us lets them relax and learn from the connection. Truly connecting, which occurs when we don't work to connect, but rather allow the connection to happen, lets us relax and share the information we have to impart. Once the connection has been made, then communication can begin.

Why essence listening? Our audiences, our colleagues all want to know what it is that we are going to say; what concepts we're communicating to them. Using essence listening lets them know we care about them as individuals AND allows us to accept their willingness to listen, too. Essence listening allows us to make an almost electrical connection with our conversants. The best example I've heard is that essence listening is like lightning. The speaker represents the clouds and energy in the sky, making available to the earth the power of their presence. The audience is the earth, also with power of presence available. Lightning occurs when the earth, in what is called "the response stroke," sends its energy up to join that available in the sky. Lightning goes up, it does not come down! Essence listening allows us to receive those great amounts of energy from those to whom we speak to initiate and, hopefully, continue a connection - a relationship.

Essence listening acknowledges that we are truly present with our audiences and they with us. It respects our uniqueness and our importance. The communication circle of transmitting through a channel to a receiver and then receiving feedback becomes alive and energized. The noise that disrupts communication is abated. We can concentrate fully on what we are saying and what is being heard.

Consider essence listening a dance of life - a minuet. We come together with our audiences to touch, and then back away to give each other space to absorb the contact. We join and part throughout the dance, finally blending at its completion. We allow all those in the dance to display their real selves, their essence.

When we practice essence listening, the flames of the power of presence within us ignite, explode and burn brightly, lighting up the lives of those we touch.

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