“No one ever listens to me!” Have you ever heard someone say that? Have you ever said it? Typically, a person who says they’re listening is probably just ‘Pretend’ listening, waiting for their turn to talk, chip in, share the thought they just had. “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”. – Stephen R. Covey
I can’t remember where I heard this story or the name of the elderly lady in this story, but it’s worth highlighting here. An elderly lady and her friend wanted to be of service to their community but didn’t feel they had many talents to draw from. They had an idea and set up a meeting with the high school principal. They explained that they wanted to serve the community with their ears. The one thing that both ladies were very good at was listening to others. They wanted to serve the student body by listening to any student that wanted to talk about anything under the sun. The principal was skeptical but told the ladies to be at the upcoming school assembly to make an announcement about lending their ears to the student body. Excited about an opportunity to serve, the ladies went right to work getting business cards made. On the day of the assembly, the ladies took the stage and told the students – we are old ladies who want to make a difference. We are very good at listening! We don’t know what you go through on a daily basis, concerns you have, problems you encounter, but our ears are yours anytime you need them. We will be in the back of the auditorium handing out business cards with our numbers on them if you are interested. Within the next few weeks, the two ladies had received hundreds of calls from students who simply needed an ear to hear their heart, hurts, and hopes. These ladies helped by simply listening. The program they started has since been welcomed in other schools. There is power in listening!
The message a listener must send is 1) I see you and 2) I hear you. It’s crucial we are fully present when we are listening. We bring to the table respect and reliance to gain honesty, and education of the person speaking. The speaker may be open to hearing new ideas if we’ve listened well and truly understand where they are coming from.
Peter Drucker said, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said”. When listening, what is being said without words? What are their eyes telling you? What is their body language telling you? Does their dress and hygiene scream anything at you? What about their tone of voice?
In “Becoming A Person Of Influence”, John Maxwell provides a guide to being a better listener.
I’ve used this guide as I’ve listened to others through the years. In doing so, I’ve discovered that I needed to also listen with my eyes to hear what’s being said without words. What concerns me or brings me caution? How can I help? Who do I need to connect with to provide the right help for the person who chose me to be a listening ear? Keep in mind that we are listening because we care, not to provide unwanted advice. If we have a habit of blurting out our solutions to their circumstances, we give them a reason to believe we weren’t listening, only waiting for our turn to speak.
There are dozens of ways we are advised to listen better. I don’t claim to be an expert by any means. But, what has worked well for me has been to simply lend my EARS:
E – Exit out of YOUR world, be fully present in their world. Whether you are talking on the phone or in person, have a pen and paper to write down what you are hearing so you can understand better, respond better, help better…You’ve been invited into their world to help them with their world. Seldom will they ask to come into your world.
A – Ask questions to clarify, to better understand their heart, hurts and hopes, to help them think in and out of the situation, to draw out the answers that lie within, to determine how you can best help…
R – Review and Repeat back what you heard to make sure you heard right. Respect the speaker by making sure you are hearing exactly what they are saying with and without words.
S – Support what you hear with truthful and factual feedback. Some just need to be heard, some will need help, some will need directional advice, some already hold the answer that needs to be drawn out by a well-placed question, some are asking for accountability for their journey. But most importantly, all are simply asking to be heard.
Open your ears! Your players are speaking to you if you will listen.
Boyd Hamlin is the Director of Program Development for VOLTA Sports and Leadership Development Group. VOLTA offers a unique three-pronged approach to, coaching, playing and sports leadership beyond the Xs and Os. VOLTA provides interactive workshops, peer mentoring, executive coaching and an eLearning platform. Boyd brings over 25 years in Student Ministry encouraging, equipping, empowering students and leaders to excel beyond their known potential, to reach and exceed their personal goals, and to lead and serve others. For more information, click here: VOLTA