If you manage employees, work with customers or deal with the ups and downs of relationships…you must have heard “you are not listening" or "you are not hearing me.” I bet it does not feel good and it most likely makes you more defensive.

Perhaps you read articles and received feedback about “listening vs hearing” or how to improve your listening skills. Has it made a difference? It’s all well intended and yet not always helpful.

From my experience, there are deeper reasons that prevent us from hearing another person and just “learning to listen” does not work. It truly starts with understanding oneself and what triggers us when we try to listen.

To hear what the other person is saying, especially in difficult conversations, means being willing to be:
-open to another viewpoint

You can easily enhance your listening ability by paying attention to your own reactions, without judging yourself, merely observe your reactions. Study yourself like an “observer” and think about what comes up for you when you listen to someone:
-Do you want to respond right away?
-Is it hard for you to listen because you expect something negative or hurtful?
-Do you feel easily defensive or shut down?
-Do you have answers right away?
-Is it hard for you to hear the other person’s view?

Enhancing your listening skills is a choice and you can start with a few steps:

Be present during every conversation
Let the smartphone or computer rest for a moment and be fully present in the conversation. The more you can focus on the conversation, there more time you will gain in your day. The affect of half understood or misunderstood conversations is unnecessarily taking up valuable time.

Breathe before you respond
Pay attention to what triggers you and urges you to respond right away: is it wanting to help, doing a good job, fear of what’s being said, feeling of being very busy or something else. Find out what it is and ask yourself “is it true?” With increased self-awareness you can let go of patterns that are not helpful.

Be mindful and stay in the moment
Stay in the present. Perhaps the message triggered a deep seeded memory and you responded to past experiences and not really to the message or the person. “Cut the cords” to the past experiences to enjoy each day and situation as a new one with a “clean slate.”
(On a side note, when I learned how to “cut my energetic cords” I made $140,000 over night)

Author's Bio: 

Ulrike Berzau, Executive Coach & Consultant, works with individuals, teams and organization to achieve exceptional results in life and business. With extensive experience as healthcare executive, she is known for providing highly respected insights and creative solutions to secure continuous advancement and excellence. Ulrike has an unwavering passion for igniting the talent and brilliance in others and her international and multicultural experiences allow her to relate to a diverse audience. Her ambitious, yet well balanced, positive and inspiring mindset is the catalyst of her own success and assures the success of clients, staff and organizations.

Ulrike is the co-author of the International Best-Seller Imagine a Healthy You and an inspirational speaker. She is certified as Thinking into Results Consultant, Passion Test Facilitator, ASAP Engagement Consultant and Achieve Today Coach, and holds a Master’s Degree in Management, a Master’s Degree in Health Science, Physical Therapy, and is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.