Listening means paying attention to what the other persons are saying -with their words, their bodies, their movements, their tone of voice. It means saying: “I am here” without saying a word. (Paolo Terni)
Meet Paolo Terni, my second guest on the Powerful Listening Journey. Terni is a Professionally Certified Coach, ICF member and author of the book “Coaching Leader: how to transform individual talent into business results”. Besides a degree in philosophy, a Masters in Work Psychology and extensive training and practice in NLP and solution-focused coaching, he’s currently pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience. His field of study is Positive Psychology. I know Paolo from his vivid and inspiring comments on twitter and his posts on his personal website Brief Coaching Solutions. Terni currently lives in Milano (Italy) and Walnut Creek (California, USA).
What means listening to you?
Listening to me means being open to the other person.
It means to stop talking. In the interaction, and in my head.
It means to focus on what the other is saying.
It means paying attention to what the other persons are saying -with their words, their bodies, their movements, their tone of voice.
It means accepting the other for who he or she is and in whatever state he or she is.
It means giving gratification; validating the other.
It means saying: “I am here” without saying a word.
Where/when did you learn to listen?
I am kind of a “natural listener” – in the sense that being too shy to speak up and too introverted to rock the boat, i was happy to just listen to what the others were saying! 🙂
I first came across the notion of listening as a skill during my college years – reading about it in books, and discovering that in real life being a good listener would get you lots of female friends, but no girlfriend!
My first course in listening skills was at Coach University, back in 1997 or 1998 – back then there were different courses you had to take to graduate, and they were all 4-weeks modules, except listening: that was an 8-week module. That spoke volume about the importance of listening.
What great listener inspires/inspired you?
I would say my professional role models: Robert Dilts, Insoo Kim Berg…
The one who is listening probably controls the conversation. (Paolo Terni)
However, he taught me beautifully how to make a case for the power of listening to workshop participants who were blue collar workers – not the most sensitive kind of audience.
Yet he simply but brilliantly demonstrated how it was he or she who was listening, not the one talking, who has the power in an interaction. The one who is listening probably controls the conversation, because he or she has asked a question first; can regulate the conversation by sending non-verbal feedback to the talker; the listener can gather a lot of information; listening is a good alternative to saying something rush, and it gives you time to think.
Can you recall a moment in your life where listening made a significant difference? What happened?
Yes. Well, there are quite a few. I think the most important one was when I first met my Father-in-law. Of course, I was terrified. But then I told myself I could treat this first encounter as a professional one, i.e. I could use my professional skills. So I went into a listening mode: being there, doing some NLP-style mirroring, focusing 100% on him… it worked! He liked me! 🙂
What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever heard?
This silence was so loud it made your ear buzz. (Paolo Terni)
This is a difficult one. The first time I heard the sound of the voice of my wife.
Hearing my Grandma, or my Mother, or my wife playing the piano – it has a powerful, powerful relaxing effect!
Then, sounds in Nature: the distant rumble of waterfalls. Birds chirping.
And the most awesome sound of all: the sound of silence. I experienced that 3 times in my life – and it is breathtaking.
The first time was in the Alps, I was with my uncle – we were on the Rosengarten, in the Dolomites, and we had just climbed a small peak. We were having a snack and then all of a sudden my uncle said: “Listen! Can you hear it?”
I stopped eating and I listened. You could hear… nothing. Just this emptiness. This silence was so loud it made your ear buzz. It was weird, but it was liberating at the same time. For a moment, everything was still. It was like being lifted out of time, out of the river of life and just … be. I experienced a sense of deep peace, relaxation and connection to the whole.
How can we teach ourselves to listen?
Well, I think Coert Visser mentioned this: deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice re-listening means to debrief yourself after you have talked to someone with the intent of listening: what did he say? What was his mood? How do I know that? What kind of words did she use? Was body language congruent or not to the emotions expressed? And so on.
Who should I visit next?
Because she has a very interesting inter-actional perspective about communication, infused with a Wittgenstein spirit – so I am very curious to see how she would answer these questions; I am sure she has quite unique perspectives!
And what would you like to ask him/her?
What would be an inter-actional perspective on traditional listening skills?
Did you like this interview?
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Do you know other powerful listeners I should interview? Let me know.