Here are the 5 rules when using listening techniques together:
1. Start with discovery questions
To understand and more about someone else you always got to start by ask a few (semi) open ended questions to get started.
Simple questions such as "How are you" to your partner and loved ones work.
"How are you feeling" works specifically well too
2. Always use pauses
The goal of listening is to allow others to speak freely on whatever that is in their mind.
Pauses are especially powerful and easy way to do that. Just pause and be silent after each sentence from others. If they got more things to say, they will say it.
This will save you lots of work to think of many questions to open them up. Sometimes the easiest way is to not talk at all and let them voluntarily talk to fill up the silence
3. Spot the emotional knot before asking why
You ask why questions whenever others are showing signs of emotional knot or stress. A few example of emotional knot can be:
- "I am not feeling well today" => [not feeling well]
- "It hurts me so much whenever I see him" => [hurts me when I see him]
- "No one ever cared about me. I felt all alone" => [felt all alone]
The more you are aware the more you will see the emotional knot in their words.
When you see these emotional knots, you ask the why questions.
- Why are you [not feeling well]?
- Why does it [hurt you when you see him]?
- Why did you [feel all alone]?
Why questions will invite others to peel away the effects (how they feel) then tell you the cause of their feelings.
4. Ask why repeatedly until you get to the core
To have deep meaningful conversations, you almost always ask the "why" questions
Why questions help you to peel away the mask everyone put on to hide their real self
There many layers to that mask
You must peel these layers away one at a time by asking why questions one at a time
Once you ask enough why, you will get to the core
That's when the conversation gets really deep
That's where you are better able to understand others and make strong connection with them on a deep level
5. Summarize whenever you feel stuck
While going through the listening process, there will be moments where you are stuck or confused. You may feel like it's the end of the conversation, in reality it may not be
To keep the conversation going, you can summarize what they said to invite them to talk further
Below are couple of key scenarios when it's a good idea to summarize
- Summarize when you are confused or unclear of what they said
- Summarize when you don't have any questions to ask
- Summarize when the conversation gets too long and it may be hard to remember you guys were talking about
Putting these rules in action
Here's a conversation between mother and son
Mom: "Oh how I have missed you so much my son. Merry Christmas"
Son: "Merry Christmas mom... (did not smile much)"
Mom: "You don't look too well on your face, is there something on your mind?" (#1)
Son: "Oh really? Is it that obvious?"
Mom: "I am your mother, I know you the best. You can tell me anything."
Son: "I been meaning to want to tell you this for a while and it's about you... (looking at mom to see her reactions)"
Mom: (Pauses... and wait for son to continue) (#2)
Son: "Do you love me as your son?" (#3)
Mom: "Yes I do. Why do you ask that?" (#3)
Son: "I know that you always care about me and do many things for me. I somehow don't feel the love"
Mom: "Why don't you feel the love?" (#4)
Son: "Because all these things you do for me are nice but don't really matter to me..."
Mom: (Pause ... ) (#2)
Son: "What I really want is you telling me 'I love you my son, I am very proud of you'. I don't think I ever hear these words from you."
Mom: (Pause ...) (#2)
Son: "Also, whenever I tell you 'I love you mom'. You never replied back saying 'I love you too'. I remember one time before I head out to college, I said 'I love you mom', you just start helping me to pack my stuff to go back to college."
Mom: "So you're saying that when I help you do things to make your life easier, you don't really feel the love. What you really want is simply me telling you in words that I love you." (#5)
Son: "Yes! It would mean the world to me and make me very happy."
Over a typical christmas meeting, mom was greeting her son as usual. She noticed the gloomy look on her son's face and used discovery questions (#1) to start the listening session
Her son was a bit hesitant to talk about this since it may potentially hurt his mother. Mom did a great job not interrupting with her ego and paused (#2) to give silence her son needed to continue with his thoughts.
When her son started asking "Do you love me as your son?". It was a clear sign of emotional knot (#3), the son was questioning his mom's love for him.
Mom spotted the emotional knot and ask "why do you ask that?" (#3)
Mom then continued to ask why questions repeatedly (#4) and paused (#2) to peel away from the layers of her son's reasoning and thoughts to get to the core
When her son started sharing a lot more about himself and why he's frustrated with his feeling lack of love, conversation got a bit too long.
The mom then summarized what her son said that all he ever wanted was for his mom to tell him 'I love you and I am proud of you'. (#5).
With that, the son is very happy that he was understood and mom now understand the miscommunication of love between mother and son
It can be tricky to navigate through a listening session and needs plenty of practice to improve
Each person's stories and thoughts are unique
Each listening session will be different and needs slightly different strategy
These 5 rules on how to use these listening techniques will serve as a good guideline moving forward
Try it on any of your friends and loved ones
With enough practice you will be amazed on what you will uncover