At The Coaches Training Institute, I was trained in three levels of listening. The first level is hearing someone. The second, listening to them. The third is more a sensing – listening for what is not being said. The instructors would ask us, at certain points in the training, to “listen” to what was going on in the room. This listening involved going underneath surface communication to the emotions present in the room.
Have you ever been at a meeting where, on the surface, everything is going as planned, but the tension in the room is so thick you could cut it with a knife? If you sense that tension, you are listening to what is not being said. Human beings are complex. There are many aspects involved in our individual existences. When you are in the work world, many of these aspects are ignored. These aspects of ourselves do not go away just because we are working. They are kept, consciously or unconsciously, beneath the surface because we do not want to show them. In certain situations however, they can lie no longer and rise in the form of “the energy in the room”. As a manager, it behooves you to pay attention to what is not being said.
You can practice this, if you like. In a meeting or when you are speaking with a member of your team, put some of your attention on what the energy in the room feels like. Get accustomed to this sense. When you sense something awry or evident but not being said, you can call it out to others. It can be as simple as a question – is everything okay? Or you can go further, saying for example, I sense dissatisfaction here. In listening to what is not being said, you get closer to the truth of a situation and can handle whatever is happening in an effective and comprehensive way.