Listening For Deeper Connections

Last week I attended a networking dinner like none I’ve ever attended. It was an event by Project Exponential led by Michelle Welsch. If you don’t know who she is or have never been to one of her events, I highly suggest you check her out. I was interested in attending her curated dinner events for one reason; for the chance to connect with likeminded individuals through meaningful conversations. The event did not disappoint.

Over the years, I’ve painstakingly attended networking events just for the sake of meeting people in the industry so I can ask and answer the question “what do you do?” No matter what line of work you’re in, answering this question can often feel intimidating or contrived. You wonder if the person you’re speaking to is listening intently, possibly judging you, and where this conversation is leading. The other part of the networking equation is listening to others. Oftentimes, at these sort of events, we’re so caught up in our heads thinking about the next thing we’re going to say as soon as the person finishes talking. Or maybe your attention is elsewhere as you think about what’s on the dessert table on the other side of the room or pinpointing the nearest exit in case you’ve had enough and want to ditch this whole networking thing.  In either case, you’re not being present and can possibly be missing out on making deeper connections. The person you are talking to serves a purpose for you and can quite possibly be your next client or can be the answer to your next career move. Yet, if we are not open and fully present we would have missed out on the opportunity.

The point is, networking can feel like a necessary evil sometimes. Especially when it means getting clients or the success of your career. But it doesn’t have to be. You can actually hold a meaningful conversation with someone that doesn’t have to feel fake or staged.  Here’s what I mean.

Communication is key and a vital part of communicating is Listening. Powerful listening not only allows you the opportunity to learn from the other person but also to grow by understanding the perspectives, ideas, and needs of others. By doing so, you shift from a ‘me’ perspective into a desire to connect with others. There are three distinct listening skills that you can use at a networking event or just about any social situation as a platform for building deeper relationships.

Listening Form #1: Subjective Listening

Subjective listening is very one-sided and is based on the needs of the listener. It relates everything that is being said back to the listener and is a poor way of forming meaningful conversation.

Subjective listening sounds like:

  1. Speaker: “I’m a writer and I’m so nervous about giving my first crowdfunding pitch for my book project in a few months.”
  2. Listener: “Yeah, I would be nervous too! I get nervous any time it’s my first time doing something.”

Listening Form #2: Objective Listening

Objective listening focuses completely on the speaker and there is no thoughts of how what is being said relates to the listener.  It demonstrates better listening but doesn’t quite hit the mark. However, this style of listening shifts us out of the ‘what’s in it for me’ mentality and it opens us up to truly understanding the person who is speaking.

  1. Speaker: “I’m a writer and I’m so nervous about giving my first crowdfunding pitch for my book project in a few months.”
  2. Listener: “Sounds like this is really important to you and naturally would lead to a little discomfort”.

Listening Form #3: Intuitive Listening

Intuitive listening is by far the most important and powerful form of listening. At this level the listener hears not only what the speaker is saying but feels it intuitively. The listener pays attention to what is being said in addition to the tone, energy and feelings behind the words. This style of listening enables us to hear the real message and get to the heart of what is being said.

  1. Speaker: “I’m a writer and I’m so nervous about giving my crowdfunding pitch for my book project in a few months.”
  2. Listener: “Sounds like you’ve put a lot of effort into this and it matters a great deal to you but there are some concerns you have about the outcome. Tell me more about that.

You will use all different listening skills at various times in your life but becoming more aware of your level of listening can mean all the difference in building connections within ourself and others. Learning to listen intuitively requires us to be present and completely in tune with what the person is saying. That means, no glancing at your iphone or anticipating your next response to the speaker. Begin practicing this style of listening during your next conversation with a co-worker, at a networking event, or even with a stranger.

Keep me posted on how it goes