The Power of Conversations: Who are You Really Listening To?

Have you ever left a conversation thinking you’d reached agreement on goals and next steps only to find out later that the other person had very different ideas about what you agreed to? Have you tried to communicate an important message to your team and even though you were crystal clear, they just don’t “get it?”

Conversations are the foundation of personal and organizational success. It’s through conversations that we build relationships, define goals, and take action on the essential tasks for success. We all know that listening is a key skill for effective conversations — yet who are we really listening to when we’re in a discussion with someone? The voice inside our heads, that’s who! In fact, we’re often so distracted by the conversation we’re having in our head, we aren’t really present with the critical conversations we’re having with others — negatively impacting relationships, productivity, and results.

Our internal conversations create the frame of reference for all of our interactions and responses. They are the filter through which we listen to what others say and interpret the events that take place. The following elements that are present in every conversation we have with the “voice in our head,” directly impacting the clarity of our communications and the effectiveness of our results.

  • We are always listening. We are always involved in an internal conversation – silently speaking, and listening to, our interpretations, biases and perceptions. We may not actually “hear” our internal dialog – but we are always unconsciously listening to it. In fact, it’s often difficult to hear what others are saying because the voice in our head is overshadowing the actual conversation we’re having.
  • We are already listening. Our listening runs ahead of whatever conversation we’re engaged in. Before something actually happens, we’re already biased about how things will turn out and how we will respond to that. How many times have you heard the voice in your head say, “Well, I know where this is going.” and then adjust yourself to align with your expectations?
  • We are automatically listening. We bring our pre-determined and habitual interpretations to each event, circumstance and conversation. Each of us has a persistent, streaming tape of language, reactions and feelings from the past that colors our experience in the present moment.

Cultivating open listening and leveraging the power of conversations toward specific leadership results are proven strategies for lasting change. And the first step is learning to observe ourselves in the midst of our conversations and to shift our focus to become more present with the other person. Join us for The Language of Leadership training program and learn to become aware of when the voice in your head is drowning out the voice of others and discover how to direct your conversations toward the possibilities you envision and the results you desire – personally and professionally.

This article is based on the work of Fernando Flores and Alan Seiler.


About insightleadership

Managing Partner for Insight Leadership
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