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Silent Night, and silent moments in the daytime too – the gift of listening this Christmas

I’ve just delivered almost two hundred Christmas presents. No reindeer involved; no red outfit; they dropped into inboxes rather than down chimneys, and nobody left me a glass of sherry.

These ‘presents’ were actually podcasts – a reminder of the communication tools we cover in my training sessions. They’re to help people turn new behaviours into habits.

So, the gift of words. And new habits.

But is that the most important offering we can make this festive season?

Should it in fact be the gift of silence?  Listening.

I came across Celeste Headlee recently and her book We Need to Talk. (www.guardianbookshop.com). In it she discusses how the world is awash with communication, much of it on social media, but less and less conversation. And that at the heart of conversation is the process of listening. Proper listening, though, not waiting to speak.

We’ve become used to expressing our own ideas/thoughts/feelings/outrage, via the myriad of channels available to us, but we’re losing the art of respectfully giving other people space to express their ideas.

I see this, and the effect of it, all the time. A group of professionals the other day failed to ‘hear’ the brief for a scripting exercise. They took in the first few words, rushed to craft their response but did not successfully complete the task because they hadn’t listened properly.

Very often people struggle with confidence issues (in meetings and presentations) because they’re used to being interrupted. Consequently they belittle their content, rush through it, say too much and never pause. They tell me how empowered they feel when colleagues/bosses give them space and time to speak; how they dare to be more concise, to express their ideas, and how confidence thereby soars.

Working in schools, helping children to develop healthy communication habits, I hear about first-time proper conversations with grandparents, made possible by simply asking a question and then listening!

So perhaps this festive season we can all give the gift of listening and turn it into a new-year habit: listening to the lonely neighbour at the bus stop; to our elderly relative; to our children; to our partners and, when back at our desks, to work colleagues who will grow in confidence if we choose to use our two most powerful communication tools. The ones which hold our Christmas cracker hats on………

Merry Christmas and a very restful start to 2018.