What Kind of Listening Do We Owe Each Other?

100% of my clients come to me in order to become better talkers. The particular focus varies–keynote speech, clearer presentations, better storytelling—but what they all have in common is that they want to change something about the way they talk.

The longer I do this work, the more I think that there needs to be a way to supplement the coaching on talking with coaching on listening. Not for my clients: I already work with them on that. For the people around my clients. For, I guess, everybody.

Nearly every client conversation I have reminds me of this need. The client is working hard to see where they can improve, how they can shift their communication habits, how they can move their speaking style closer to what someone else needs from them (usually either their boss or the overall culture of their organization). 

But no one, when they are referring their employee to me, says, “John needs to improve his speaking style, and also, I could really use some coaching on how to be a better listener.” We tend to frame “better communication” as being solely the responsibility of the person talking. That doesn’t make any sense.

What kind of listening do we owe each other? What would it look like if we became fully present, suspended our own agenda, refrained from judgment, and really listened? What would we learn? What would we hear that would otherwise be lost? How might we become present to ourselves in a new way?

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