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Insights: Can You Hear Me?
May 13, 2009

Can Your Hear Me?

"Hear me
I'm cryin' out
I'm ready now
Turn my world upside down
Find me
I'm lost inside the crowd
It's getting loud
I need you to see
I'm screaming for you to please
Hear me
Hear me
Hear me
Can you hear me?
Hear me"

- Extract from "Hear Me" sung by Kelly Clarkson

This week, Bill talks about the art of generous listening, a vital yet underrated skill in today’s world where people frantically fight for 'share of voice'.

Share of voice

'Share of Voice' is a term commonly used in the marketing and advertising industries to describe the degree to which companies or products dominate media advertising in their markets.

It seems to me that the term could just as well be used to describe the games that many people play trying to overwhelm others with their dominance of the 'spoken word air waves'!

I hear you

The phrase "I hear you…" has become common – I think overworked is a better description – in today’s workplace. No doubt, originally, it reflected someone’s desire to build a genuine connection with the person they were engaging with. Sadly, though, the phrase has lost its original meaning, having become nothing more than a polite put-down.

Nowadays, those three words "I hear you." are almost always followed by the disclaimer: "But…"

The significance 'rush'

In the modern global village, with its intensely competitive, materialistic nature and frenetic pace of change, people are finding the search for relevance and significance more challenging than ever.

And it reflects in the way we hold conversations with each other.

Gaining the upper hand in the battle for share of voice is a game that more and more people seem to be tempted to play in an effort to experience that brief 'rush' of significance.

If you’re sceptical about what I have to say, try taking the position of observer the next time you’re with a group of friends or work colleagues.

Cornering the soapbox

Count how many times people are given the opportunity to finish their sentences before someone jumps in to try and corner the soap box, at least temporarily. Judge for yourself, whether those doing the listening are doing so out of profound interest for the topic or simply as a breather before launching their next takeover attempt!

Granted, there’ll always be those who are too intimidated to try and open their mouths in such group discussions but the point is that they are seldom offered any opportunity to contribute by those who constantly hunger to hear the sound of their own voice.

Crying out to be heard

In the business of life coaching we understand that the personality most driven to dominate discussions is very often the one who feels the greatest need to be heard.

This may sound a little counterintuitive at first but let me try to explain my rationale.

Significance and Love and Connection are two of the six primary human needs that drive our behaviours and actions. They are also opposing needs, meaning that too much of one will eventually result in one craving more of the other in order to bring about a more harmonious balance.

People driven by an out-of-balance need to feel significance are, metaphorically, shouting out: "Can you hear me?" They’ll shout louder and louder right up until the point where they finally perceive that they are being heard and suitably recognized. The more out of balance they are, the more likely it is that they will engage in tactics geared to exclude or shout down others who they perceive as threatening their 'share of voice' dominance.

Those whose need for significance is in harmonious balance with their need for love and connection, will be content to contribute to a conversation, all the while harbouring a finely tuned awareness of how their contributions affect and respect other parties to the discussion.

An unusually strong need for significance can be an indicator of a lack of connectedness – or a feeling of discomfort or being out of touch – with one’s inner self. A person experiencing an extreme need for relevance is almost certainly – and exclusively - searching externally for the answer. By 'hotwiring' their thoughts directly to their voicebox, such a person is able to bypass their distrusted inner voice that they know would call out for more love and connection in the form of tolerance, respect and generosity.

Life coach material

I often get asked by people how they would know if they’re life coach material. How they handle conversations is often a great indicator.

As the primary job of a life coach is to focus on helping others be the best they can be, having a passionate interest in others is naturally of paramount importance. You cannot have a passionate interest in others if you don’t know how to listen with generosity, because you will never get to know or understand your clients sufficiently.

Let me explain by way of a 'close to home' example.

My mother-in-law (contrary to the much maligned stereotype) is a wonderful lady. Whenever I’m with her, I feel totally relaxed and comfortable. I tend to share more about myself, my life, my likes and my dislikes than I would with most other people. Our conversations are interesting, informative and enjoyable.

Relative B, on the other hand (you’ll have to forgive me for not naming names) is a different proposition. The thought of engaging that person in discussion about something of importance fills me with trepidation. I just know I’m going to get something not far short of a sermon that allows me little or no space to get a word in edgewise, as they demonstrate their 'superior knowledge' on just about any subject you could imagine.

So, what’s the key difference between these two relatives when it comes to communication?

Master of the art

One has mastered the art of generous listening – expressing genuine interest in other people by asking well considered questions and providing sufficient time for a thoughtful and descriptive answer.

The other has mastered the art of dominating communication in such a way as to suffocate debate and prevent others from airing views that they may not like, they may not subscribe to or that may degrade their own significance.

As a society, the art of generous listening is a masterclass we would all do well to sign up for. I believe it holds the solution to many of the political, economic and social problems we face. By learning the ability to focus on someone else, what they are really saying and how they are genuinely feeling about it, we can fundamentally change our perception of the world.

What about You?

Perhaps you’re a generous listener with a passion for helping other people. If so, the chances are you’d make a great life coach. If you have the passion, we have the skills training to set you on the road to a rewarding and fulfilling lifestyle career.

If, on the other hand, you recognize in yourself the symptoms of a high need for significance, our certified life coaches can help you achieve the life balance required to bring you personal freedom, confidence and growth. Be inspired!

With warm regards.


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