When our boys were little, my wife (aka The Therapist) would sometimes have to get their attention. She would take their face in her hands and say, “I need you to listen with your whole body.” She knew that just asking a child to be quiet didn’t guarantee listening.
Some things don’t change with age. Listening pros know that they have to use their whole bodies to effectively listen to another person:
- They use their posture. They turn toward the other person, showing attentiveness.
- They use their eyes. They know when to give someone eye contact. They even know when to avoid eye contact so that the other person has a chance to think away from the gaze of another human, something many people feel sensitive about. Hint: this is why your husband or your teenage son might talk more to you when on a walk or on a drive.
- They use their facial expression to show openness and to signal that they’re tracking – or that they are confused.
- They notice the body language of the person who is speaking, picking up the subconscious changes in expression or posture.
The common thread to all of these moves is that pros turn toward others.
You can make a game of this. For one meeting each day, pay attention to how others are showing up. Where are their eyes? Where is their body turned? What do you see in their facial expressions?
Then turn the game on yourself. If you observed yourself, what would you see?