Recently I completed my 7th Toastmasters speech. This speech was my “research speech” so I had multiple sources! But the story that captured my audience was a concept I called “Sideways Listening”. This kind of listening can be both positive and negative.

Are you a Sideways Listener?

We often are pretending to listen – when our minds are doing something else! This can damage our personal and professional relationships. I starting learning my lesson about listening (and continue to learn) several years ago.

Tiffany became part of my life at six. My youngest step-daughter (now an adult) had this tiny little “Minnie Mouse” voice which my red personality (ask me about the Color Code!) did not respond as graciously as it should have. I realized this was not helping me be an aware stepparent nor helping her to feel heard. So, I taught her to:

  1. Make me stop whatever I was doing (and I gave her permission to feel like this was ok to do anytime she needed to)
  2. Have me look directly at her

This was her assurance I would Comprehend, Retain and Respond to what she was saying (Click Here for more about Active Listening). It had a very positive impact on our relationship and my effectiveness as a full-time step-parent.

Can Sideways listening also be a good thing? 

Yes! This can actually be an opportunity in our relationships to build rapport and provide people an opportunity to speak with less pressure (The Power of Sideways Listening). The author talks about the benefit of “car conversations” with her children where they were more inclined to connect because the encounter was not actually face-to-face. Kids are often in the back of the car (or in my case, the 13 year-old grandson is loving the shotgun seat!). It allows the person speaking to confide in a more indirect way, and this can be effective in both personal and professional situations. “It’s about positioning ….so people feel more relaxed, and it’s much more helpful in getting them to talk more freely.” This harks back to a concept I’ve read about for years about developing rapport by meeting someone on the same side of the desk – versus the opposition sitting across from someone.

With the ubiquitous distractions we experience daily, maintaining and improving our listening skills will always serve us better. Whatever strategy you choose, I challenge you to make sure that voice is heard – even if it sounds like Minnie Mouse.