Have you ever noticed that your mind is chock full of running monologues that are instant, automatic, and largely unexamined? These “thoughts”arise from what we refer to as your “Mental File Cabinet” and require no effort on your part to occur. They are patterns of thinking that started forming when you were very young and now run on auto-pilot. The problem is, if you haven’t learned to self-observe, these thoughts will function as very unintended biases to both your listening and your speaking. These biases will very likely give you the outcomes that currently frustrate you, or even create upsets in others.
Effective leadership conversations, whether with an individual, your team, or a large audience require a shift to a more productive way of communicating with others.
Let’s start with your listening. Here are some of the more common automatic unproductive listening filters that people have:
- Critical listening - “I’m listening for where you are incorrect.”
- Solution listening–“I’m listening to give you advice and solve your problem.”
- Impatient listening –“I’m listening for where I can jump in because I already know what you are going to say.”
- “Me too” listening–“I’m listening for where I can share how my story, my life, and my circumstances are just like yours.”
- Competitive listening–“I’m listening for where I can one-up you or outdo you.”
- Know-it-all listening–“I’m listening for where I can share my own expertise on this topic.”
I’m guessing that when you read this list you may recognize using one or more of them. I’m also guessing you would not enjoy someone else listening to you that way.
The antidote to your instant, automatic, and generally unexamined listening is to give yourself a “brain assignment.” This is one of the practices that we at 2130 Partners call “simple and not easy.”It seems simple because all you have to do is tell your brain that the way you are going to listen to “Gina” the next time you engage with her is using the “Brain Priming Recipe”below. It’s not easy because you have unwittingly been practicing automatic brain priming from your Mental File cabinet for many years without realizing it and your brain truly has a mind of its own.
Here’s the “Brain Priming Recipe” that will get you the outcomes you intend after you have practiced:
1) Observe your default thoughts and reactions about having conversations with Gina before you engage
2) Plan your next conversation based on your intended outcome(s) for the conversation(s)
3) Carefully examine how the outcome(s) differ from your past experience
4) What are you willing to commit to for the outcome(s), even if it takes extensive listening first?
5) Just prior to the next conversation, consciously prime your brain with its assignment - the way you intend to listen and your commitment to the outcome of the conversation(s), that differs from past experiences.
6) Begin listening carefully and patiently for the content, feelings and intent in Gina’s part of the dialogue
7) Summon your courage, your willingness to surrender your control of the conversation, and stay engaged with Gina until you have produced the intended outcomes together.
You may well find yourself having failed in your intent to listen in a particular way in favor of your past thoughts about conversations with Gina. For example, if you intend to have a conversation with Gina about failures to accomplish promised results and you really like Gina, your “I really like Gina and don’t want to hurt her feelings” thoughts may overtake the assignment you thought you had put in place for your next conversation. As you might guess, there are many, many thoughts in your Mental File Cabinet that may come up and intervene in your success.
The solution is to keep practicing! Learning to be present and connected takes time.