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September 2012

Some Thoughts on Listening

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”

… Ernest Hemingway (1889-1961) US journalist, novelist and short-story writer

It has been many years since I touched on the topic of listening, so I felt it was high time to reconnect with one of the key aspects of communicating with others and offer some further ideas on the subject.

Let us begin with a simple question, "What do we do when we listen to another person or even ourselves?"

An initial distinction to draw here, involves an understanding of the difference between hearing and listening. In ontological coaching, hearing is the biological function of being cognitive of sound. On the other hand, listening goes beyond cognition and is seen as the act of interpreting what we hear. In other words, we take what we hear and then make sense of it. We can take this one step further. Human beings not only interpret what we hear, we also interpret what we see, touch, smell and taste. This leads to the idea that listening is process of interpreting what we observe through our senses and goes beyond simply our hearing. Interestingly, this allows for the idea that, although they cannot hear sound, people who are deaf are still listening.

Good listening is seen as fundamental to good relationships. With the understanding that listening is an act of interpretation rather than just hearing, this makes even greater sense. After all, how we listen to others informs what actions we take. Therefore it follows that poorer our interpretations found in our listening, then the less likely we are to address the real concerns of the other person. Hence the feeling that others are not listening to us creates a great deal of angst for the people the world over. Yet what are we saying to someone when we accuse them of not listening to us?

Generally there tend to be two aspects behind this accusation. More often than not, we are telling them that they are not paying attention to us. Given that human beings are in a constant process of interpreting their observations of the world, it means that we are always listening to something. However, our interpretations follow our observations. If I am not paying attention to you then I will struggle to effectively interpret what you are saying and most people instinctively understand this.

The second aspect of the accusation stems from the other person not "getting" what we are saying. In other words, they are not interpreting what we are saying in the way we want them to interpret our meaning. One insight here is to recognise that others are generally not choosing how to interpret what we say; they simply do this automatically. As a listener, at times, we may reflect on how we listened to someone, but it would be very unusual for someone to do this all the time. Indeed, many people would never even consider the possibility of reflecting in this way. A second insight involves the idea that listening always happens within an already existing context. What this means is that our way of interpreting something is shaped by what is important to us. Our mood, our prejudices or preferences, the meaning we ascribe to certain words, our existing interpretations, and so on.

Effective listening goes well beyond the parroting of words back at someone. If you want to become a more effective listener, we invite you to remember the three As of listening:

If you would like to find out more, please write to us. We would love to hear from you.

Pause for Possibility

"Treasure your relationships, not your possessions."

… Anthony J. D'Angelo

This month’s “Pause for Possibility” takes on a more personal note. Recently, one of Jacqui's nephews, who was only twenty years old, tragically died in an accident. As you would expect, there was a great deal of grief for family and friends. His passing also highlighted the significance of what is really important in life, as everything else faded into the background and we focused on relationships and taking care of each other.

So this month, we invite you to pause and reflect on the important people in your life. No questions from us this time, we just invite you to simply take some time and follow your thoughts.

Accountability Public Workshop

Accountability continues to be a recurring theme in our work. Indeed we believe that accountability, along with engagement and productivity, form the big three areas of concerns within organisations today.

In June we ran the first of our accountability workshops and the response has been such that we are delivering another one soon. This workshop is designed to give you a practical approach to addressing your accountability concerns and we are offering it at an introductory price of $97 + GST and Eventbrite fees. This is remarkable value for a half-day workshop.

The workshop is being held on Wednesday 31st October between 8:30 am and 12:30pm, so if accountability is an issue for you or in your organisation, then come along and find out how you can address it. You can register for the event at EventBrite by clicking here. If you encounter any problems with this, then please email us.

The Monthly Diversion

A rather different way of thinking about life by Woody Allen

“In my next life I want to live my life backwards.

You start out dead and get that out of the way. Then you wake up in an old people's home feeling better every day. You get kicked out for being too healthy, go collect your pension, and then when you start work, you get a gold watch and a party on your first day. You work for 40 years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement.

You party, drink alcohol, and are generally promiscuous, then you are ready for high school. You then go to primary school, you become a kid, you play. You have no responsibilities, you become a baby until you are born. And then you spend your last 9 months floating in luxurious spa-like conditions with central heating and room service on tap, larger quarters every day and then Voila! You finish off as an orgasm!”


"I am not young enough to know everything."

… Oscar Wilde (1856 - 1900) Anglo-Irish playwright, novelist

Talking About Coach Training

Talking About Coach Training's Professional Coach Program is a rarity in that not only do you get to develop your coaching skills using a deeply philosophical ontological approach, you also get a personal coach and mentor throughout the program to help you on the journey to enhanced coaching skills and personal transformation. And at the end of all this, you can become an Accredited Professional Coach through ANZI Coaching!

Becoming an effective coach does not just happen overnight. This is why our program, which is self-paced, can be done in a time frame between twelve months and two years and to suit you. This provides you with the opportunity to get a rich learning experience that fits into your busy life. Added to that, as this is largely a one to one program, you can be anywhere in the world and we can connect with you using the wonders of technology. In the past, our students have come mainly from Australia but also as far abroad as the US, Asia and Europe. They have been people wanting to become a professional coach, people who are looking for personal transformation or people in internal leadership and coaching roles within organisations who want a deeply aligned framework to develop their skills.

We believe that great coaching goes beyond coaching skills and requires the coach to have the way of being of a coach and your coaching supervisor is there to help you achieve this. On top of that, we are able to work with you to tailor the conversations in the program to your unique needs and goals.

So if you want flexibility, a program tailored to suit your needs, a coach and mentor for up to two years and are looking to establish or augment your coaching skills leading to a coaching accreditation, then this could be the program for you.

We are very proud of our program and the quality of the graduates we produce. So if you are interested in finding out more then we invite you to visit our web site or write to us at info@talkingabout.com.au.

Want to Read More?

Since the formation of Talking About in 2005, we have published our e-zine every month. Before that, Chris wrote regular newsletters and e-zines with Gaia Consulting dating back to 1995. If you would like to explore more of Chris' ideas then you can access our e-zine archive and view any newsletter written since 2005 by clicking here or to look at all the articles Chris has written over the years simply click here.

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