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A story from Mike Collins, a talented colleague and friend I’ve had the pleasure to meet in the last 2 years – a story about consciously choosing to “listen – really listen”.

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak’ was one of my granddad’s favourite sayings when he wanted a little quiet time.

It came back to me after a recent coaching session where I had started to explore how intently I was/wasn’t listening to people around me.

The initial practice goal I set myself was to listen intently to the next 5 people I met and see what I could learn about them and what they were doing in their lives.

As my colleague Steve says I was ‘going to give someone a good listening to’.

As luck would have it the next day was my sister in laws wedding and looking round the group of characters sat in church I relished the thought of sitting next to a complete stranger and listening intently to them.

You’ve guessed it already; my sister in law in her wisdom seated me next to my mother in law, I can see the fun the happy couple had when creating table layouts.

Now, my wife was in on my goals and she sat across the table from me with tears of laughter in her eyes and a look that was saying ‘go on then, listen’ – so I did, quietly and intently for an hour and a half.

To my complete astonishment I discovered that I was indeed sitting next to a complete stranger. I realised much to my discomfort, that early in our relationship I’d made a snap decision about her and I’d stopped listening.

I learnt more in that 90 minutes than I had in the previous 28 years, about how she felt about me, my family, her role in our family and the fact that she wanted to be ‘friends’.

So go on give it a try, choose a number like I did and then listen intently – put aside your own agenda and discover a whole new exciting and interesting world that’s passing you by.

CONSCIOUS CHOICE – How are you giving those around you a “good listening to?” What will you find out about others if you choose to really listen? What might you find out about you when you do?

Mike Collins, Manchester, UK

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