Are You Hearing, Listening Or Co-Creating?

Being in the presence of another, even if they are saying nothing, can bring more benefits than we could ever imagine, such as co-creating, be that in our personal lives or in our business.

There are always unsaid responses when the subjects of deep listening, being present or being there for someone, are raised.  Some of these responses are, “woo woo”, “soft skills”, or, “Oh this is just counselling”.  These responses could not be further away from the truth.

It is believed that our deepest desire is to be seen and heard.  I have this many times when speaking with senior managers, experienced coaches, and family and friends.  We all desire to feel valued and to know that what we think and say matters.

A recent article about Buurtzorg, a Netherlands based company, providing nursing care in the community, discusses the merits and experiences of patients undergoing treatment.  Buurtzorg broke the mould in community care by tearing up the traditional process orientated, task-based, less human way of doing things, and created a locally managed, patient-centric, very human way of being and caring for their patients.

Whilst administering the same level of medication and high quality of treatment of the various conditions presented, it was the way they connected, interacted and received their patients that made all the difference.  The results of which were that the patients recovered quicker, required less medication and overall fewer visits from the Buurtzorg nurses.  The bottom line, of course, was a huge cost saving.

It was noticeable that the patients no longer felt like victims. They feel they are now in control of their own treatment and healing.  Their nurses see their patients as equals, fellow human beings, just having particular conditions to manage.  With the Nurse helping them to manage these conditions.  In the traditional nursing situation, patients are often seen as just a number, a piece in the healthcare machine, something to be fixed, moved on, completed.  In saying this I am not diminishing the amazing work done by nurses, rather it is that so often the system and associated bureaucracy continually lets them down and stops them being, well, nurses.

In the Buurtzorg community, they are called clients rather than patients. They are treated as a person, a human being, someone with a brain, a heart, feelings, and emotions. The clients feel valued and that they matter and this makes a huge difference to their healthcare. For me this is co-creating.  Where two or more people are working together, co-creating an outcome that benefits all parties and the wider community. We can take this way of being easily into the workplace and into the home.

After all, we have diligently learned physical and cerebral skills. We are competent at doing many things, yet that which we crave the most, and need to give the most, is the one most difficult to find.

Research shows that the communication medium we use most often is listening, and yet this is the one in which we have received little or no formal training.  The other three mediums are speaking, writing and reading. We use these much less than listening, but they are the ones in which we have the most formal training.

Interestingly, we are conditioned to believe that speaking is the way to succeed, and there are plenty of training courses available on this subject.  However, how many people have lost a job or a sale for listening too much?  Or, have you ever heard someone say, “I am going to give them a right listening to!” as opposed to giving someone a right talking to!

Think about it, and ask yourself whether you would prefer to have someone shouting at you, or to have someone asking you for your opinion, or your thoughts?

We seek to connect with others through social media and feel that because we have hundreds of connections or followers we will be happy and fulfilled.  Sadly that is not true.  The rate of suicide continues to rise, as does the rate of divorce and the number of people feeling lonely.  And feeling lonely does not just apply to those in old age, it is happening to our youngsters too.

I enjoy social media, but to avoid the above issues my recommendation is to focus on increasing the quality of your connections, making them real, deep, and meaningful, rather than focus on quantity, where the interactions are minimal, superficial and curated (not being one’s self, rather communicating with each of your connections in the way you believe they want to see you).

What I realised more recently, through a great conversation with Hannelie Venucia, ( is that by connecting and engaging in this way we begin to co-create together.  Whilst it may seem slightly strange that one person in the pair is deeply listening, yet appearing to be doing nothing, one might question and ask, “How can they be co-creating?”  The answer is that they are bringing their presence to the dialogue, as you will see below.

The good news is that we all know how to listen, to connect deeply, to be empathic and to co-create.  We have just lost the desire to do so.

What can we do to start co-creating?

  1. Set your intention to listen and be a co-creator. The key difference is that we have to intend to listen, whereas simply hearing can be achieved without even thinking.
  2. Start by going within and still yourself enough to really see and witness the speaker.
  3. Suspend your thinking and your judgements. And just ‘be’ with the speaker.
  4. Be curious and wonder what the speaker will say next.
  5. Listen to understand, not to think. The moment we start thinking about our reply, we have stopped listening, and furthermore, at this moment we are barely even hearing.
  6. Remain present with the speaker. Engage them with your eyes, even when they look elsewhere to think, as they will appreciate you when they return and look back at you.  Keep your body open, resist folding your arms, crossing your legs, leaning back, and try to keep yourself still.
  7. Resist, resist and resist again the desire to interrupt them, just remain silent.
  8. When you think they have finished speaking remain silent a little longer. Offer, “What more?” Then listen and don’t be surprised when they start talking again.  You can ask this simple question a few times.  They may well get to the point where they say, “I have never told anyone this before….”.
  9. When they have finished you may wish to ask them questions about what they have said. Or repeat back what they have said, either word for word or by paraphrasing it. This will take the conversation even deeper, as the speaker now feels deeply heard, valued and that their words matter.  You will notice them relaxing further, maybe even smiling.  This is a moment not to be dismissed, as it is very unusual in today’s world.
  10. Once they have finished speaking it may feel appropriate to offer a few words of appreciation to them. They may be feeling vulnerable at this moment, having revealed and shared so much, so appreciation matters.  (Appreciation is rare, and when it is done well it will land.)  Don’t over think it, just say, “name, one thing I appreciate about you is…” Make it about them, who they are, what you felt in their presence, who they are being.

My kind thanks to Nancy Kline and her work “Time to Think”, which provides some of my inspiration.

Colin D. Smith
COLIN is ‘The Listener’, a listening skills specialist and the ‘go-to’ person for individuals and teams who want to be heard, think for themselves, and transform their business and personal relationships through active listening. Colin has that innate ability to actively listen to people. He works with management, project and creative teams, facilitating the development and improvement of their listening and thinking skills. Thereby equipping them to more effectively meet their business, relationship and service challenges. He also works privately with individuals, enabling them to feel heard and valued, to think more clearly for themselves, articulate their creative ideas, address their personal concerns, and achieve their personal and professional goals. Colin has had a varied and successful career in consultancy, business development, IT and customer support, across many sectors, including finance, motor, retail and the NHS. In looking back he realises that much of his success was due to his listening and connecting abilities. His inquisitive and curious mind also enables him to explore, with others, unusual, thought-provoking, yet grounded, observations and alternative approaches to business, people, systems, and change. To make things happen, and to take ideas and thinking further, he connects his Clients with his trusted network of entrepreneurs, consultants, thought leaders, free thinkers, coaches and change makers.
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Susan Rooks

So true on so many levels, Colin! I recently had lunch with a friend I see a few times a year; from the moment we sat down, it was obvious she was in pain. We talked back and forth for about 15 minutes, but then it became clear she needed to unload what was going on with her.

Two hours later … and yes. I sat, listened, and fed back bits and pieces the entire time. Obviously this was a day that had to be all about her. Not about me, except to listen, to empathize where I could, and just be there. Never saw her so distraught before, even though she does have a difficult life.

Most of us want to be meaningful to someone. To be heard. To be valued. The ways we want that may be different for each, but there’s no getting around the fact that we need human connections who show us that care, that love. And when we’re ill, that becomes even more critical, doesn’t it!

Thanks for an important article that I’m sharing on my social media platforms.



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