Recently my wife and I had  gone to a jewellery shop in Ahmadabad. The shop was recommended by a friend, as it has some really brilliant designs of jewellery. After seeing some samples of bangles, necklaces, we just happened to ask – What is rate of 22 Ct gold in the shop. The sales guy told us the rate. My inquisitive persona did not sit quiet and I checked up the rate of Gold at Ahmadabad on Google. Meanwhile the owner of shop came to us and was enquiring about what we have finalized. In the ensuing conversation, I remarked “ It seems that the Gold rate of your shop is less than the published rate of Gold for Ahmadabad “.  Behold, the owner picked up  blank sheet  of paper and pen and explained how the gold rate is arrived at. He explained, what is rate on Commodities exchange, what is the rate in International market, what is the tax structure on gold imported. How the rate is derived in India , why there is a difference in the rate on Commodities exchange and imported gold. I got lot of information about gold rate. I felt glad that I was enriched by the knowledge I got in the shop than the routine experience of gold purchase with my wife.

We came back home and I was reflecting on the incidence – how my remark, has started a long conversation, in an otherwise transactional business. I felt good, that I have improved my conversational skills- probably due to my coach training. I felt good, that I am slowly but steadily plodding along, my coaching journey because, I was able to extract lot of information, with a simple remark. Pat on my back.

After some time, I thought;  was my comment neutral?  Did it contain something else?  Was the feeling, that how come the rate at this shop, is less than the published rate, has created a doubt in my mind, about the purity of gold in the shop?   Oh, now I was in shaky waters. I realized, that the comment was not so innocuous one, as I had thought earlier and patted myself about improvement in my coaching skills.   I also ,realized that the response from the owner, was  something more. Probably, he has sensed my doubt about purity of gold – and hence, he took efforts, to explain to me ,how the gold rate is arrived. Now the light dawned upon me.

In any conversation, we would like to prove something to other. Either, we want to prove that We are better than the other, know more than the other, smarter than the other or have something to achieve from the other. The conditioning, a human being goes through, because of education, society , upbringing, makes him/ her to prove him/herself. That gets reflected, in every activity, a human being undertakes. Probably, it may not be obvious to the person concerned , may be it is an innate subconscious process. Self interest in whatever form, reigns supreme.    The same was true in my conversation, though earlier I felt differently.

Chad Hall MCC says during a coaching conversation – “Embrace the primitive”. How true!  Primitive as I understand, is as not knowing. Asking a question, after interpreting the thoughts, shared by the client, through your own conditioned and knowledgeable mind is a complete No No.  Coaches are aware, that powerful questioning is an essential competency, required for having an effective coaching conversation. Then, what is the meaning of “Embrace the primitive “?

As I understand this-  it is asking questions without any assumptions, without knowledge interfering with the listening process. How come you can understand a conversation, without interpreting? To understand, you must know the language a client/ person is speaking. Otherwise, all spoken words are nothing but noise. But then we have an innate tendency, to ascribe more meaning to a word, phrase, than may be necessary. We sometimes project emotions, that we feel, the other person is going through. Other day in a coaching session, the client said that, he is not able to practice his hobby. He was aware of the benefits, the hobby was providing, but still did not have clue, as to why he was not able to practice it. The client being a busy executive, my mind raced and interpreted it, as question of prioritizing his activities. So, the questions then followed, were not primitive but has sprung out of my interpretation. Though the session, was successful, this realization kept me thinking, as to how I can ask questions, which are simple rather, I will say basic.  

Just listening, not knowing and embrace the primitive are all interrelated. The key to ask simple questions, is to just listen from state of not knowing and ask questions. So, practice listening with not knowing. May be silence is the best primitive question in a conversation.

How to practice Listening, with not knowing. I am sharing some of the things, which are helping me, on my journey, to become a good listener. Hope this may help you.

When you are in nature, try to listen to the silence between the sounds. For example, you are at a sea beach, then try to listen to the silence between roaring of waves. Or in the morning, the silence between the chirping of birds. This can also be done, when talking to someone. Try to listen, to the gaps between the words spoken.

The second practice which can make you more present in listening is a practice suggested by many masters of different religions. The practice is -when you are conversing with someone -imagine that, this is your last conversation with the person, you are not going to have next conversation because the person may not be alive tomorrow.  Some may feel awkward about, how to imagine that a person may not be there tomorrow. The realization that, this may be the last conversation, with the person you are speaking, makes you more present and in the moment. Probably, you also drop your judgements, leave out past impressions of the person and also, your past experiences with this person. What you will be able to do, is pure listening. I am sure, this practice will have a profound impact, on the way you listen.