You might have take listening for granted.

We’re now too busy and distracted to explore the depths of other’s thoughts and feelings.

People get lonely for lack of listening, not because they’re alone.

They don’t have anyone to share their thoughts and feeling with and vice versa. That explains why joining a club, inviting people to dinner, going outside doesn’t work. Due to the lack of listening, people often feel lonely and empty in the presence of others. It’s the accumulation of events when nothing happened or missed opportunities to connect when people are not listening to each other.

Listening is active.

The best listeners focus on processing all that incoming information and find meaning, opens door to creativity, empathy, and insights.

Bad listening behaviors include:

  • Interrupting
  • Responding vaguely or illogically to what was just said
  • Looking way from the speaker, at a watch, phone,…
  • Fidgeting: tapping on the table, shifting position, clicking a pen,…

Listening is not about just hearing what people say. It’s also paying attention to how they say it, in what context, and how that resonate with you. To listen well is to figure out what’s on someone’s mind and demonstrate that you care enough to want to know. We all crave to be understood.

Listening is not about teaching, shaping, appraising, or showing how it should be done. It’s about taking interest in who the other person is and what they are doing.

Listening requires genuine curiosity more than anything.

Think about a time when you were trying to tell a story to a person who were not interested. How did you feel?

We don’t like changes but uncertainty is what makes us feel most alive. Think of events when you go somewhere you’ve never been, do something different, experience a surprise party,… Thanks to dopamine, you get a greater surge of pleasure from unknown things. And nothing is more surprising than what comes out of people’s mouth. People are fascinating because they are unpredictable.

Questions like “What do you do for a living”, “What school did you go to”, “Are you married?” is interrogating in a sense that you’re not trying to know the person, you’re sizing them up. It makes people defensive. Instead, try to find something interesting about the other person and share something about yourself. Be genuinely curious about others.

While you think you’d more likely to listen to your loved one than a stranger, the opposite is often true.

People in long-term relationships tend to lose their curiosity for each other. They become convinced they know everything about the other. They don’t listen because they think they know what the other person will say.

Once you form a connection with someone, you assume that it will always be so. However, the truth is, no one is the same as yesterday because opinions and beliefs change. It doesn’t how well you think you know people, if you stop listening, you’ll lose your understanding of who they are.

You often make assumptions. You are more influenced by stereotypes that you think you are. Who need to listen to people while you can Google them? The problem is, what you’re seeing is their persona, not them. What’s below the surface is more than you can imagine.

Your dog, Siri, or Alex can hear you but not listen to you.

People want to get the sense of why they are telling you the story, what it means to them, not so much about the details. Always ask yourself “Why is this person telling me this” and understand that sometimes they may not know the answer themselves. Good listeners ask questions and encourage elaboration. For example, a coworker tells you her office is moving to another floor. Did she say it with excitement or the opposite? What does it mean to her? How does she feel about it? Why is she letting you know? Saying “Oh, okay” or “I’ve got some boxes if you need them” is missing the point.

When you leave a conversation, ask yourself:

  • What did I learn about that person?
  • What was most concerning to that person today?
  • How did that person feel?

Worrying about what to say next works against you.

Free up your mind to listen first. Allow someone’s opinions and beliefs get past your border defenses.

It’s incredibly hard to listen when our beliefs are challenges.

Differences of opinion are inevitable in life. Instead of listening to holes in others’ arguments, listening for evidence that you might be wrong. Listening does not mean you agree with someone, it just means that you accept the legitimacy of other’s point and you might have some thing to learn from it.

It takes a whole lot of listening, not numbers, to understand people’s feeling, habits and motivations.

Quantitative methods in the form of surveys may not get you whole truth or why people feel guilty about using paper towels instead of cloth rags. Understanding the people represented by the data is a lot harder.

Listening is essential to being funny.

Making a joke involves being vulnerable as you’re putting yourself out there, hoping your humor will be appreciated. That said, a shared humor is an indicator of feeling of connectedness. People who can make you burst out laughing are usually your closest ones. You feel free enough to let loose with them and the things are the funniest are often the most personal.

Develop conversational sensitivity.

People who have conversational sensitivity not only pay attention to spoken words but are able to pick up hidden meanings in tone. They remember what people say and tend to enjoy. They have the ability to elicit more than superficial chatter so people reveal more of who they are.

Good listeners are all about support responses.

Imagine a conversation like this:

  • Sue: I watched this really good documentary about turtles last night.
  • Bob: I’m not a big fan of documentaries. I’m more of an action-film guy. (shift response)
  • Bob: Turtles? How did you happen to see that? Are you into turtles? (support response)

Another kind of shift response is by trying to find solutions to someone’s problems or explain away problems. These behaviors include:

  • Suggest you know how someone feels
  • Identify the cause of the problem
  • Tell someone what to do about the problem
  • Bring perspective to a situation with forced positivity

People aren’t looking for solutions from you anyway. You shut people down when you tell them what they should do or how they should feel. The best you can do is to listen, to understand what they are feeling and how it feels. Ask open and honest questions, not advising, fixing, correcting,… Plus, pay attention to how they say it. It’s not just words our brains are processing while listening to people. It’s also pitch, loudness, and tone.