Most people are not proficient at the art of listening. It requires practice and dedication. And there are a few pitfalls, especially in the early days, to trip you up and make you wonder if it was worth the effort. You can walk away from a two hour conversation, for example, wondering just how dull you really must appear to people. And, while you may know a lot about the person you’re talking with, you can suddenly realize afterward – to a shocking degree at times – that they have walked away without knowing anything at all about you.
That’s okay. It’s just your ego talking. You can usually quiet your ego by reminding him that the less he talks the more fascinating the world will find him.
Because the world has a shortage of listeners.
1. Listen actively. Listening does not mean just not talking. Look in the person’s eyes, watch their mouth. Lean forward.
2. Don’t think about talking. When many people are listening, you can actually see them thinking. They nod their heads and their mouths begin to open when you get to the end of a sentence. Their eyes dart around looking for the passing lane in the conversation. Instead of thinking about what you could say, think about what the other person is saying.
3. Ask questions. When the other person has finished what they have to say, instead of replying, ask a question instead.
4. Don’t fake it. If you’re really not interested in what someone is telling you, don’t pretend you are. I have a hard time listening to a lot of people, particularly braggarts, bores, martyrs and hateful people. I’ll try asking a few questions to get them into a different subject, but most often I usually end up walking away. I can’t feign interest. My time is just too valuable.
5. Ask better questions. To truly engage someone in a conversation, there is nothing more important than your choice in questions. I am fascinated with the why’s behind people’s stories. Take them deeper into their own thoughts and feelings by asking them why… why not… how did you do it…. how did you know…. how did you feel… Every story has a better story behind it, begging to be opened with a single ”Why?”
Now I understand there’s an allure to the crowded dinner table, full of conversation, heads turning left and right, chattering here and chattering there. I know there’s a high people get from being in the centre of a hive, being a part of the crowd with opinions and comments swirling about one’s head like alcohol vapour. But its a cheap high, like meth and television. It doesn’t last long and when you crash, unless you’re a hopeless addict, you’re left with only an empty feeling in your chest and the longing for having that one person alone for just a half hour so you can discover more about that one interesting thing they had started to say…
If you find someone has something interesting to say, get up and change seats if you have to. Let people know you want to listen. Let them know you care.