Growing up, we had a Danish saying that you would throw at someone who didn’t get what you were trying to say: ‘på med hørebrillen’ – meaning put on your hearing glasses, step it up, tune into what I’m telling you.
Technically, it is a pair of glasses with built-in microphones that help hearing-impaired pick up more of a conversation.
I thought of the saying this week, as I realised how differently we are all equipped to listen to each other’s messages and pick up what is intended. Or (as it happens most often) not listening for the intent but cross-wiring the message unintendedly based on our own filters and triggers.
In most everyday conversations – privately and work-related – the delivery of a message is not picked up by the receiver, either because we are not tuned in to the same channel – or because too many external factors take our attention away from focusing on the intended message.
And it made me smile realising how a trifecta has developed my superior hearing over the years – not literally if tested – but applied: 1) growing up speaking a minority language, 2) being brought up by loving parents encouraging good hearts and understanding, 3) having worked on numerous global projects in a truly global organisation.
Working on these European projects over more than two decades with >10 nationalities involved, trying to get our messages across in English in meetings, on phone and video calls. Each of us with our Danish/Polish/German/French etc strong accents – and the native English speakers having a slight upper-hand.
If we had let the ‘disturbance’ of strong accents or different cultural outlooks colour our reception of the intended message, we would have had fewer solutions, longer project timelines and many more controversial discussions – because more of us would simply have tuned out and started watching TV or checking emails while letting the phone meeting drag on.
Instead, we encouraged listening with a good heart, trying to decipher the intent and core of the message, filtering out disturbances.
I realised this is what I do today as well when coaching leaders and business owners. Not allowing the story, the circumstances or the language used to impact the underlying message. Listening for the intent. For the core message – even if sometimes covered in layers of learned behaviour, misunderstanding or rhetoric used to take away focus from the real matter.
I would love for you to practise putting on your hearing glasses, too. These special force glasses listening for purpose and intent – screening and filtering out language and words pushing your buttons, annoying you or taking your attention away from truly listening.
It is a great skill to practise. If your work with people (and most of us do), it will save you money and time in both projects and results. Cross-wired communication is what creates most of the ‘disturbance’ for leaders and business owners.
As a side bonus, it also helps you when you end up in an overseas-based call centre, wanting to get your computer issue solved. The overseas accents often get in the way and annoy people. But as you practise filtering out your annoyance and tuning in by listening with your heart, listening for intent and to create solutions, whatever you were intending to get solved will be solved much faster – and with a better mood on both sides when hanging up.
Most of us stop listening very early in a conversation or meeting because of the other party’s way of talking, a certain body language, use of words or something else that triggers us or annoys us. We stop listening to understand, we judge both messenger and message – or simply take our attention away from what matters most because we’re busy going down another track in our mind.
Listen with your heart and listen for the best possible intent in the moment. Great conversations and great results will be the outcome – reached faster than expected, and with a positive expectation towards the next interaction. På med hørebrillen!