Listen with Pause and a Curious Bias

Back in March, I got floored by two videos on listening. I got so affirmed, and then, had to call myself out on my own “when I don’t listen crap.” The first video, a mere one-minute-twenty-six, and the second, fourteen-minutes-and-forty-seven-seconds.

Video 1: pause or pounce.

Is the emotional pothole of your own making?

It’s .2 vs .6 seconds. In a blink, .2 seconds, that’s the time of average response in human communication. Versus .6 seconds, how long it takes for our brains and mouths to actually recall, reference, and then respond. Whether by the excitement in wanting to share something amazing or defensiveness in the fear of urgency. By preparing your response before they’ve finished speaking and showing… you’ve failed. We require .6 seconds for a quick actual response where we’ve considered what someone has said and then respond. If you responded in .2, well, you’ve pounced and you’re not on the two-way street of actually listening. You’re a steamroller. You’re paving your road at the other person’s emotional expense. And guess what, later on, you’re going to hit an emotional pothole that’ll knock you out of alignment.

And I get it, you’ve got something that’s just bursting to get out of you! You just know it will change somebody’s life forever, for the better! BLURT! In that pounce, the fullness of what you could offer gets lost in the jarring and startling, or in somebody’s feeling they weren’t heard.  Sometimes, I’m so excited to share something, I don’t listen worth shit. I’m pouncing. I’ve got to do better. Pause… Thanks, Ryan Foland, what a great #gingersnip on Twitter!

Video 2: listening with a judgment bias vs a curiosity bias

The second one, about how we go into listening, caught my eye after I went to YouTube to look up Ryan’s base video for his tweet. Let me state right now, this is NOT about saying we should be unbiased in listening. I believe the opposite to be true. We have biases and should consciously and purposefully apply them. The more we try to remove them from us, the worse we get tripped up by them. We should have a bias for not having crappy biases. (I have a feeling, right now, I’d be in Ryan’s .2 Club if I were talking to somebody that says we need to be unbiased.)

A judgment bias

Let’s say I get this crazy idea of how to do something to make the business world massively better. I go up to one of my trusted sounding board peeps and say, “I have an idea, and, I want to tell it to you, and I want you to poke as many holes in it as you can.” Right there, that’s when a judgment bias is really damn helpful. We’re in agreement and trust, and I’ve done everything I can to put myself into, get ready for a hard fist to the nose. And they get to go, “okay I’m not gonna pull any punches.”

A judgment bias gone wrong

This time, somebody comes to me with their great idea. I go all .2 on them and shoot the shit out of their idea. I’ll keep it short. I never heard another great idea from them.

A Curiosity bias

Let’s say I’m coaching a client. He brings up that he wants to do something, but he’s afraid it will turn out bad like a time before. He’s just stalled in fear. He asks, “how do I get past this?” I ask him to tell me more, to go deeper into the source of his fear. We end up discovering that what he was trying to do earlier, required him to use one of his strengths to go against one of his core values. Now he can go forward with his values and his strengths aligned, and in his creativity to do something that still feels very risky to him.

A curiosity bias gone wrong

Alternate ending: I tell him to stop being a wuss, and tell him how he should do it. It turns out bad for him, oh, and for me too. Yeah, I kept it short again. (FYI, if we’ve got a well-established relationship, I will ask, “what’s got you being such a wuss about this?” – Translation: what’s the real source of your fear?)

Chose .6 seconds and a curious bias

In trying to solve a really big problem that’s dear to our hearts, it’s really easy for us to get our anticipatory filter for conflict prepped and prereading into what another says. We’ll instantly spin their words into the weave of our argument against them to discredit their position. This gets even worse when were in that fearful emotion, like urgency. By the way, do you know the medical definition of urgency? It’s, you have to go to the bathroom super bad. You’re going to pee yourself! And on the move to the bathroom, anything that’s in the way of your straightest and quickest path, is fair game for destruction. That’s why I argue that valuing and focusing on urgency (having a bias for urgency) is the quickest way to screw up relationships and for making things take longer. How’s that for piss-poor irony! It also results in very crappy leadership. (Hehe… I couldn’t help myself wordplay intended.)

When we’re going to emotionally pee ourselves, we tend to hurt everybody in our path, especially those we depend on in fulfilling our company mission.

There’ve been many times relating to a couple causes dear to me, one, caring about employee happiness, and two, gender and racial equality, I believe I could’ve done a far better job of listening. Ok, there are probably other situations too. Anyway, as I watched Cassie Jaye’s TEDx Marin talk, I realized as an advocate for women’s equality in the workplace, while I was doing the good fight to promote more women and their perspectives in leadership, I could have listened better. I could chose to go in with a curious bias. And maybe, I would’ve been more helpful. When I’m in counterpunch mode, or maybe I should call it “counterpounce” mode (thanks Ryan 🙂), I’m making it real difficult for them to hear what could be informative and helpful. I’m making a choice to do better here. Pause… .6 sec.

No one hears until they’ve been heard. It’s it’s why the beginning of conversations with new people are always awkward. Until we’re heard, we don’t know if we matter. And no one you’re talking to knows they’ve been heard, unless you’re responding instead of reacting. You’ve been in that conversation where you haven’t been heard, it sucks.

It only takes .6 seconds to move into your curious bias. Choose it before you go into a conversation, especially with someone you see as your opponent or adversary. Otherwise, you’re probably too late. They’ll feel your curious bias and mirror it back to you. You’ll end up finding ways to be right together instead of pointing out what’s wrong with the other.

Let’s be a little more CEO in our listening. #beCEO Be curious, empathetic and optimistic instead of judgmental, apathetic and pessimistic. If we do this, we just might go forward more often, even from our differences, and in belonging.

Thanks for reading. If I can help you in any these areas, or you just want to connect, give me a holler. Catch ya, Paul.


Paul Haury
Paul Haury
Belonging Coach & Evangelist for Heart-Based Leadership in Workplace Culture & Happiness. I’m a coach, a mentor, an optimist that nerds-out on all things in the social-behavioral and neurosciences for what motivates us in how we can be better, and, get us to with whom and where we belong. The paths that get us there follow roads of vulnerable togetherness, kind and honest challenges in personal accountability, and a deep curious appreciation for being wholly human in full potential. It’s here, where we land on the good side of our fears and aspirations, and make our dreams happen. We’ll never do anything as well, as when we’re doing what we’re doing with and for those we love. I help people create their own unique spaces to go farther and higher in their individual brilliance than they ever could alone.

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