MLM: Listening For Success

Most of us think we listen. We do — to ourselves. We have a “listening repertoire.” We listen “hurry up; get to the bottom line; yeah, yeah, yeah; been there, done that; who do you think you are? yeah, right; prove it.” A speaker has as much opportunity to be heard in a roaring crowd of football fans as he or she would standing in front of someone listening with their “listening repertoire.” Whatever we’re listening to, it’s rarely the speaker.

MLM Leaders who listen allow the speaker to recognize and experience being fully heard, to fully unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow and come to life in the presence of listening.

Who are the MLM leaders you go to for advice, coaching, feedback? Not to the “practical ones” who tell you exactly what to do, how to do it, when to do it. You go to the leaders who listen, brainstorm without censorship, are the least bossy. It’s because by discussing your problems and circumstance with them, you then know “what to do” about it yourself.

When MLM leaders listen, without an agenda or trying to fix, problem-solve, speed up the conversation, there is an alternating current between the speaker and the listener — this recharges both so that you don’t tire of each other. You are both being recharged.

So by now, as an MLM leader, you’re probably saying, “Yeah, this is all well and good, but what about those people who just talk and talk and talk non-stop?” Those people who “just talk non-stop” have rarely experienced being heard. Only superficial talk comes out, something gushy, nervous and chatty. Rarely has anyone listened in a way that calls out of them what is true and alive — especially you, if they’re still talking to you to be heard.

Empathic listening is listening with a sensibility and empathy to another’s life experiences. It is a gift, and the nucleus of communication. Empathic listening requires very little speaking; silence and timing become two of your most powerful tools. Empathic listening is pro-active with an affinity and excited interest. It does not require completing another’s sentences, nor offering pearls of wisdom; neither does it require playing “junior psychologist” or “guru motivational speaker.” When empathic listening is present, it is masterful and empowering and invites the speaker to be original, independent in thought and courageous in action. It is void of “having to be polite,” nice and concerned about hurting someone’s feelings. The latter is attention on oneself, not on the speaker. The latter blocks the alternating current and the speaker and listener at best are left discontented.

Listen Through Empowered Listening

Now, how to listen? Listening is not “an art.” Listening is a life skill to be mastered for the benefit of everyone on this planet. I’m not referring to the type of listening that is for the purpose of research, critical analysis or sociological/psychological categorization. These distinctions in listening are important and useful. The listening distinction here is “empowered listening” which includes empathic listening.

Empowered listening is a “practiced” listening for the purpose of hearing a communication from another’s perspective. It requires the listener to give up the “right” to interpret/make up what’s being said and remain present to what’s being spoken. It cannot be done thoughtlessly, half-heartedly or as a technique. The speaker is heard outside the boundaries of our personal judgments, opinions and evaluations. Empowered listening that encompasses empathic listening “requires” the listener to hold the speaker’s conversation as a communication that is authentic and realistic from the point of view of the speaker. It does not require agreement, critique, passivity or censorship. It requires stillness, being present NOW and a willingness to honor the communication irrespective of your point of view. Empowered listening is challenging. It takes a few days to learn it, months to practice it, and years to master it — all time well spent developing one of life’s most powerful communication skills!

MLM Leaders are from all walks of life and diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. The most challenging aspect of empowered listening occurs when it crosses genders.

In the male culture, men are socialized to listen from one of the following perspectives:

What/How to:
Provide
Protect
Problem-solve
Perform
When/How to:
Play
Procreate
Please

The female gender is socialized to:

Manage
Train
Support
Assist
Nurture
Love
Communicate
Relate

The challenges in gender difference listening occur when the “Telepathy Myth,” a phrase coined by Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D., a psycholinguist, are at play. The “Telepathy Myth” has four propositions according to Dr. Elgin:

  1. People who love you “know” what you want and need.

  2. If you “have to” ask, they already know it’s a power play.

  3. When they do what you want after you ask, it doesn’t count.

  4. Anyone who does #2 and #3 doesn’t really love you.

So how does this myth apply to MLM leaders who listen?

When a couple enters into a business like Network Marketing, these myths follow. For the most part, the “myths” are hidden background listening — an automatic, lazy listening.

What both men and women do at the outset of any relationship, whether in business or as mates, is observe and listen in order to internalize and anticipate another’s point of view, needs and wants. By so doing, each may become at ease in predicting the other’s next actions. The mischief that comes along with this automatic listening is that it closes the alternating current loop by locking in a standard listening for one another. We listen to each other with “always, never, control, and avoidance of control.” Masterful listeners will hear when a gender issue has arisen. How? Some key phrases are:

MEN: It’s a woman thing; why are you making such a big deal (men, in general, have a cultural listening that conflicts happen, let bygones be bygones, go on as if nothing happened, let’s get back to normal); you don’t really “feel” that way.

WOMEN: Just like a man!; why should I ask, he should know; you’re not listening to my feelings about the situation (women, in general, expect men to make a diligent, consistent effort to learn from their [the women’s] behavior over the years how they “feel” about things).

Masterful listeners hear others’ expectations and recognize them as such, without having to placate the speaker. Empowered listening then becomes the tool to break the “Telepathy Myth” by making a request of the speaker as to his or her intended outcome for the communication. When a request is made from a place of empowerment, the simplicity of the request opens the channel for the alternating current to resume.

What men can do — listen to:

  • hear what is meant

  • understand the point of view (not necessary to agree)

  • respect what’s being communicated

What women can do — listen to:

  • partner and prioritize what’s important to him

  • appreciate and accept his perspective (not necessary to make it your own)

  • listen, learn and be loyal to the partnership

Both genders must keep in mind this metaprinciple: Lazy listening has real consequences! Men dislike being “told” what to do. They prefer being asked! Women dislike asking, it’s perceived as a “power play.” They prefer to be invited — as in pro-active anticipation of their needs and wants! (How would you like to. . .is a good beginning.) When either gender has the inclination to say “Why don’t they. . .?” lazy listening is alive and well! Lazy listening is a pollution in the communication environment. It’s as dangerous to health and well-being as pollution in our planet! Empowered listening is one solution every leader can put into immediate and effective use.

So what is the direction of leadership for the 21st century? Servant Leadership. Robert Greatly, 1904-1990, coined this phrase in a 1970 essay series entitled The Servant as Leader. His objective was to stimulate thought and action toward building a better, more caring society. Servant Leadership requires listening and encompasses the “natural” feeling that one must serve. Servant Leaders are not “quick fix” specialists, nor “get to the bottom-line” experts. They are the next wave of the 21st century. They recognize that at its core, true leadership necessitates listening and long-term transformational approaches to life, which have the potentiality to create powerful change for every man, woman and child on this planet.

More Thoughts on Listening

Don’t Interrupt Others or Finish Their Sentences
by Richard Carlson, Ph.D. Taken from Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized how often I interrupt others and/or finish their sentences. Shortly thereafter, I also realized how destructive this habit was, not only to the respect and love I received from others but also for the tremendous amount of energy it takes to try to be in two heads at once!

Think about it for a moment. When you hurry someone along, interrupt someone, or finish his or her sentence, you have to keep track not only of your own thoughts but of those of the person your are interrupting as well. This tendency (which, by the way, is extremely common in busy people), encourages both parties to speed up their speech and their thinking. This, in turn, makes both people nervous, irritable, and annoyed. It’s downright exhausting. It’s also the cause of many arguments, because if there’s one thing almost everyone resents, it’s someone who doesn’t listen to what they are saying. And how can you really listen to what someone is saying when your are speaking for that person?

Once you begin noticing yourself interrupting others, you’ll see that this insidious tendency is nothing more than an innocent habit that has become invisible to you. This is good news because it means that all you really have to do is to begin catching yourself when you forget. Remind yourself (before a conversation begins, if possible) to be patient and wait. Tell yourself to allow the other person to finish speaking before you take your turn.

You’ll notice, right away, how much the interactions with the people in your life will improve as a direct result of this simple act. The people you communicate with will feel much more relaxed around you when they feel heard and listened to. You’ll also notice how much more relaxed you’ll feel when you stop interrupting others. Your heart and pulse rates will slow down, and you’ll begin to enjoy your conversations rather than rush through them. This is an easy way to become a more relaxed, loving person.

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