A simple checklist for setting your Listening Intention

April 3, 2017

In previous articles we talked about why you need to be a better listener, the potential shortfalls of active listening, and three steps to being a great practical (or purposeful) listener. That means listening for a specific purpose, audience and outcome.

The foundation and first step in being a great purposeful listener is setting your intention before you enter the room. Your intention becomes the lenses through which you filter the information that you hear.

Here’s a simple checklist for setting a solid Listening Intention:

1) Who are you listening for?

Who is the end user / beneficiary of the information that you’re listening to? This could be multiple people or groups. Write them down at the top of the page in the notebook or sketchbook that you’ll be using while listening. If you have multiple users, you might like to write them down on separate pages or sections in advance.

2) What’s important to them?

What is important to your user/s about this specific information? What are their priorities? Be concise and simple. The idea of this exercise is to simplify your listening, not complicate it.

3) How will it be used?

Consider what this information is being used for after it leaves your hands. Will it inform your planning? Teach a new skill? Share someone’s story? It’s helpful to understand where this stuff will end up in knowing what you should be paying attention to.

4) What are you listening for?

Based on points 1, 2 & 3, what sort of information will be most useful to capture? This could be specifics and statistics, stories and emotional reaction, opinions & suggestions, big picture themes, etc.

5) Do you have any personal biases that could help or hinder your listening?

While some lenses we can choose to employ for certain purposes, we also all have some inherent lenses (e.g. gender, age) that are also worth considering. Don’t drive yourself nuts with this, but it’s always worth just checking in with yourself. Do you have any prejudices that might affect the way you hear certain information? And conversely, are there elements of your background that might be helpful in your listening? Noone is completely neutral, and there’s no need to pretend you are. Your inherent lenses, when used with awareness, bring authenticity to your listening.

This checklist is a great starting point, but hey – make it your own. You may like to set up your own rituals or templates for intention setting, or you may just like to run through it in your head walking into the conference room. The important thing is that you do it in a way that works for you and you can be consistent with. Give it a go and see what difference it makes in different settings. Good luck, and I’d love to hear how you go.

Leave a Comment