I pride myself on being a good listener. Sometimes I think people on public transportation can sense that about me. Oh, and the RMV. People always think I am a good listener at the RMV. That’s how I end up on the wrong end of a monologue about that time Linda’s cat’s paw got stuck in the mailbox. I try to look really mean, but people who love to talk always manage to look past that.
Every once in a while, whether with loved ones or complete
sketch balls strangers, I catch myself nodding and making agreement noises without having any real sense of what the other person is saying. And I start to panic, wondering how much of the conversation I missed, distracted by a shiny object on the horizon or a daydream about inventing a Chuck E. Cheese for adults and their brindle French bulldogs.
Does this ever happen to you? (The zoning out part, not the Chuck E. Cheese part.) I happened upon this article from Experience Life magazine (a favorite of mine), and found the section with tips on how to be a better listener especially helpful:
Business consultant Ori Brafman and psychologist Rom Brafman are interested in what allows people to truly bond. In their book, Click: The Magic of Instant Connections (Broadway Books, 2010), they explain how to be fully present during conversations. This involves careful listening, of course, but that’s only the beginning. Here are four of the Brafmans’ suggestions for listening to, and becoming genuinely engaged in, what the other person is saying.
Be intentional. Before engaging in a conversation, consciously decide to be present and open for it. This can be as simple as taking a deep breath before opening the coffee-shop door and turning off your phone before sitting down.
Be attentive. Ask for elaboration. Share your reactions honestly. Demonstrate to the other person that you are actively participating in the conversation.
Be an equal. Avoid giving advice or assuming a one-up or one-down position. Do your best to listen without a plan or an agenda.
Be your own person. Instead of getting preoccupied with how you should respond, be authentic with your emotional reactions to what the other person is saying. Get in touch with how you’re really feeling, and your conversational partner will understand you, too.
I am guessing these tips are most useful when you’re a willing participant in a two-way conversation, but I suppose the orange line or the RMV would be good places to practice becoming a better listener. Or whatever.
Also On Tap for Today:
- One of my favorite things to listen to (besides Clark’s snoring): NPR’s StoryCorps podcast
- Starting a new book
- More ways to be a better listener via Lifehack
Are you a good listener? Huh? Whadya say?