What are we listening for?

Listening for meaning is an act of being fully present and listening to the whole person. It may involve more than hearing and interpreting a person’s words. It may involve listening for what is not being said.

Consider these strategies for listening to the whole person:

  • Be quiet and listen to understand. (don’t think about what you will say next).
  • Be curious. If you’re not a naturally curious person, think to yourself, “I’m curious about what this person has to say.”
  • Listen for the underlying issue or emotion (there may be a larger issue at play than the one being discussed)
  • Ask clarifying questions to ensure you understand before moving on from a topic. Listen and clarify.
  • Trust your gut if you feel like you’re not getting the complete story.
  • Notice any body language changes (i.e. change in position, facial expressions), which may be a cue or clue to ask more questions.
  • Listen for any emotional clues that signal there might be more to the story.
  • When we communicate effectively, we understand where another person is coming from. If you don’t have this understanding (you don’t need to agree with them), you need to ask more questions.
  • Ask yourself in your head during a pause in the conversation: “What’s not being said?”