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Listening with Your Heart, not Your Head

What is the biggest communications challenge my clients face?  The simple answer is listening; their heads get in the way.  Often, the response I get tells me that my clients are not listening with their hearts, which requires a different kind of listening.

What is the biggest communications challenge my clients face?  The simple answer is listening.  My clients struggle with listening because their heads get in the way.  They grapple with ways to communicate their messages and often ask me about how to go about saying what they want to say the best way.  As we work through this question, the logical next question surfaces:  What is the other person saying?  In answer to this question, my clients say things like, “They want me to do something I don’t want to do” or “They have different values than I do”, or “They don’t care about anything except their own agenda”. These kinds of responses tell me that my clients are not listening with their hearts. They are listening with their heads.

When our heads get in the way, we cannot hear.  When we cannot hear, we cannot Say It Just Right. Our heads say things like, “The other person isn’t interested in what I have to say,” or “The other person is only concerned with their agenda,” or “The other person doesn't like me.”  Our heads tune out the real messages and reinterpret what we hear.  To listen with your heart requires a different kind of listening. The Say It Just Right Model includes “inviting” the other person to talk.  That part of the model requires you to really listen.

Before you can listen with your heart, you must decide you want to hear what the other person is saying.  You must stop whatever you are doing and allow your natural antenna help you out. 

Here are the steps you need to take to listen with your heart:

• Really focus on the other person.  What emotions do you hear?  How does the voice sound? Lively, sad, angry?

• Don’t take what the other person says personally.  Get out of the way of the message.  Instead, ask the person what he or she really means.  Ask open, probing questions to better understand what might be going on.

• Get next to the other person.  Instead of trying to solve the problem - that’s above the person — listen for where the person is.  If your friend is hurting, feel the hurt with him.  Don’t try and fix the hurt.  If your teenage daughter is angry at you, feel her anger rather than defend yourself. 

• Use your intuition to hear the messages behind the words.  If you feel something inside, you are probably listening with your heart.  Take a risk and share what you are feeling inside.  “I sense that you are afraid of your boss.”

• Practice using metaphors to explain your intuition or to explain the other person’s feeling.  Putting what we feel into a visual image helps us cope with it. “As you talk, I keep getting this image of a deep, dark well.  Tell me how that works for you.”

Listening with your heart takes practice.  The next time you feel frustrated with the way your communication is going, get out of the way and let your heart take over. When your heart listensFree Reprint Articles, you have a better chance of Saying It Just Right.

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Joan Curtis, EdD is founder of Total Communications Coaching where she specializes in helping smart, capable professionals move ahead in their careers by becoming skilled communicators. She has taught numerous workshops on presentation skills. She also provides personal coaching to empower people to be dynamic public speakers. She is the author of the newly released book, Managing Sticky Situations at Work: Communication Secrets for Success in the Workplace (Praeger Press, ABC-CLIO Publishing, Santa Barbara, California), learn more at

Join her virtual group, Speak Up for Success, and become a dynamic speaker in six weeks! You’ll get tips as well as group support that will propel your speaking success. Learn more at

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