Next door to Open Questions you will find a store called WAIT.

The store name is in capitals.  It is also a reminder. “Why am I talking?” is a question you can ask yourself to remember that when you are using the POWER set of tools the conversation is not about you. WAIT is a gift of silence.  People process information at different speeds.  Give them time to think through what they want to say next.  Let THEM fill the silence.  They may be working up the courage to really say what they are thinking.  There may be a really valuable piece of information on the tip of their tongue and if you speak you may chase that thought away and change the course of the conversation.  Give them the opportunity to gather and consider, to search, sort and select what to say next.  Especially in difficult circumstance it is important not to fill the gap created by the silence but to leave it open for them.  They will surprise you.

In our culture WAIT seems counter intuitive.  Sometimes it is the most difficult tool to learn to use. It is so simple and so effective that I am confident you will come to love it and the results it produces.  Alone it has the power to transform relationships.  Just listening and learn.  Listen deeply for what is missing for the others person, for what motivates them.  Listen beyond the words to the unspoken thoughts and a perception of the situation that you may not have yet considered.  Sit in silence and hold the space for them so that they feel safe and confident enough to share the “good stuff”, the ideas or thoughts that have yet to hit the open air, that have yet to be said out loud, that may change everything. WAITing gives you the gift of deeper understanding that will power they rest of the journey.

The next store is the Empathize store.  Here you will find phrases like “You feel strongly about this.” And “This has been difficult for you.”  The tools here serve a specific purpose.  They are meant to help you get a handle on the level of emotion that is being generated and to harness it.  Naming the level of emotion transfers the power of that emotion from them to you for storage and or disposal.  It seems like magic when it happens.  You sense the wind coming out of their sails.  You feel the air going out of their emotional balloon.  There is such a sense of relief and release you can almost watch them relax before your eyes. And all you have to do is turn this gentle tool a notch to allow for all of that energy to dissipate.  Just notice that there is energy in their language. It is that simple.

In the Empathize store you will not find a shelf called “Stories like yours that happened to me and how I felt about it.”  It is not about you.  The tools that are sold here are focused on the speaker.  Listening for how they feel and being able to express what you’re noticing in a non-judgmental way is key. “I noticed that you use the word ‘extreme’ more than once. This experience had some emotion in it for you.”  Just notice.  Don’t judge.  Providing a space for them to be noticed will allow them to say more.  You are now panning for gold, mining for further sources of energy to take with you on the journey.

Next to Empathize, at the other end of the mall is a store called Reframe.  It holds some very important tools that will allow you to shift a person’s perspective on the world.  The framing tools are fun to work with but they do take practice to master.  It would seem like putting a new frame on an old picture would be an easy DIY project but with mitered corners and the use of reflective materials like glass it can become complicated quickly.  It is not any easy tool to use effectively. The store offers courses so that you can learn how to take a negative and turn it into a positive in five easy steps.  When you watch the experts use the tool you are often amazed at their dexterity.  They do make it look easy. That comes with practice and with knowing more about the Nine BEACHs that people come from and how to name those effectively.  (More on the BEACHS to come.)

Although Reframe is a power tool that takes energy to learn and to use effectively, it also generates power to sustain itself. The energy released in the chemical switch from negative to positive can be harnessed and it is often substantial.  You are giving the gift of seeing things in a new way.  A phrase like “You are always coming in late.” Or “You never take my feelings into consideration” can stop a conversation cold. If the reply is a reframe such as “Punctuality is important to you” or “Inclusion and consideration are what you are looking for” can ease the tension and change things from a negative charge to a positive opportunity to learn more about each other in a deeper more meaningful way. There is subtle use of tone and colour here, an artistic side to reframing that cannot always be detected. It requires listening with purpose, a kind of finesse and appreciation for what is being said and what it reveals so that you honour the artist with the frame you choose. That positive frame fuels the journey.

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No matter how well you know a person you simply cannot read their mind.  When you attempt to do that you are actually making assumptions about that person which may or may not be true.  Clarifying assumptions is what the POWER tool box was created to do.  It is made up of five elements, each a power tool in its own right.  Individually they can help you deal with any circumstance AND as a set they provide sustainable energy for conversations, relationships and organizations.

POWER stands for Paraphrase, Open Questions, Wait, Empathize, Reframe.  Think of it as an address in your brain where you keep the concept of deep listening.  It is just a way to remember how these ideas all fit together to provide a fuel source for our journey through life. I imagine a strip mall in a neighbourhood with five stores and a big solar panel on the roof.

The Paraphrase store offers ways to prove that you were actually listening to the person.  In there you can learn to give evidence of your listening by repeating back what you have heard.  Sometimes you use their words.  Sometimes you can use other words or provide a summary of what was said.  The idea is to let them hear what you thought you heard so that they can correct any misinterpretations or provide missing pieces of information for clarity.

What you won’t find in the Paraphrase store is any editing or opinions or self-referencing stories.  You know the kind of stories that begin with “That happened to me and I said ……”  There is no judgement or sarcasm to be found.  It is pure evidence of what was said in a non-judgmental, objective way.  There is no advice. “I would do this.” Or no “SHOULDING” that might sound like “You should just leave.”  There is only honouring the speaker with the gift of their own words back to them in a way that demonstrates an understanding of what was said, evidence that the person was actually hearing what was being conveyed.

On its own Paraphrase is a powerful tool to have with you when you are in any conversation.  It can help you avoid all the ‘mises’ eg. Misunderstanding, misinterpretation, miscommunication, misconstruing and all the rest. A Paraphrase gives the person a chance to hear what they said.  It is like a verbal reflection, a look in a sound mirror that allows them to check if what they said was really what they intended to convey.  It is a gift of opportunity to clarify and relieve that someone has finally heard and understood them.  We all have a voice.  We all want to be heard so when someone actually hears you and proves it you will definitely feel better.

Next door to Paraphrase is a shop called Open Questions.  Here you will find many gadgets to aid you in your deep listening project. Who, What, Where, Why, When, How are the most popular.  Using these question words at the beginning of any inquiry allows the speaker to frame their answer from what THEY know and not from what YOU think you know.  Closed questions relate to YOUR thinking on the subject.  Open Questions give you a glimpse into THEIR thinking on the subject. “Did you walk to the gas station to get gas after you rain out on the highway?” is closed. “What happened next?” is open.  Your version of the story is evident in your question.  You have made assumptions when you ask a closed question.  If you want to test an assumption you have made why not use an open question and here the real story from them?

Using Open Questions takes practice.  It seems we are programmed to ask questions from our own perspective and they can be used effectively but an open question produces more power to fuel the conversation.  You get deeper and broader information that allows you to change your own perspective and version of things.  It is fascinating what you can learn with a simple “What happened next?” or “How did that make you feel?” or “What thoughts were running through your mind at that time?”  You can strategically place the focus on the speaker and let them tell you THEIR story to deepen your understanding of their situation and their way of being in the world.  You can identify where they are coming from, what set of beliefs, expectations, assumptions, concerns and hopes they hold.  Knowing more about the person makes the rest of the journey easier to map and understand.

Next door to Open Questions you will find a store called WAIT.

In advance of next week’s webinar on POWER listening I have been thinking. For the next couple of days I will share with you pieces of the ebook that is the result of that thinking.  Listening is essential.  Getting better at it takes skill and practice.  Let me share some ideas about the attitudes, skills and knowledge that could help you improve your listening ….

The POWER of PULSE: Deep Listening

Dr. Nancy Love

Listening is something we do every day.  It is what helps us find our way in the world.  It works with our other senses to help us interpret our world.  Even though listening is so essential to our well-being, we do not always do it well.  We are often told to pay attention, to listen.  We are reminded that it is possible to do two things at once as long as one of them isn’t listening.  Often we are hearing noises, background sounds that help us situate ourselves but we are not necessarily listening.  People may be telling us a story or asking us a question but we may be distracted, focused on something else and not near because we are not listening.  We may get bored and allow our mind to wander to our grocery list or our happy place.

Hearing and listening are different.  Listening is hearing with attention, even concentration.  When you listening with a purpose the act of listening becomes a deliberate attempt to understand the other person. Listening without distraction allows you to listen for the answer to a question or listen to the emotion of, in the case of someone offering an intervention, to listen on behalf of someone else to what is being said.

It becomes important to check your own listening skills.  Watch yourself listening and just notice the kinds of things that take you away from the listening.  Also notice how good it feels when you know that someone else has heard your concerns or your joy.  The purposes of deep listening using tools like the POWER set of tools include such things as listening for something new, to make a new friend, to find an answer, to get direction, to improve the quality of communication, conversations, and relationships.

People often ask me what makes PULSE work.  For me it is the whole Idea of honouring the other person by listening to them.  I like to move over into their world and see what’s going on there.  I know how important I feel when someone gives me a gift of time and attention and I am happy when I can pass that gift along.  As humans we have a deep desire to feel heard, to have evidence that someone else cares enough to hear our opinion, our perspective, our emotion.  It is really not necessary to have them agree.  It is only important that they hear and understand.  That feeling of being heard diffuses conflict and shifts people from fight, flight or freeze to release, relax and relate.  Sometimes it is all that is needed to resolve differences.

If you give someone the gift of appreciative and deliberate listening you will always be surprised by what comes back to you.  You will not only earn yourself a hearing with them but you will learn valuable information that may even change your perception of the situation and will definitely help you map a course through the conversation you are in.  Listening with your ears, with your eyes and with your body you will be gathering information that will increase the likelihood of reaching common ground with the other person.  Listen to understand. Listen for patterns, insights and deeper questions.  Listen for silence and what is it saying.  Listen for the space between the words.  Listen deeply and with HEART and with POWER.