In this Listening to Others series, I’ve shared multiple strategies for how you can be a better listener. But none of these techniques will work unless you first have accomplished one thing:
You must want to be a good listener.
When you decide that making others feel heard is a part of who you are – a huge shift in your behavior occurs. You feel excited when someone starts sharing a story with you. You don’t feel any rush to jump in with solutions to problems. And you relish in letting someone talk on and on about themselves. Here are my three best tips for making listening to others a personal passion.
Tip #1: Ask a good question, shut up, and then probe further
I was dining with a college friend when I asked him: “So what are your plans after graduation?”. He began sharing how he felt torn between pursuing a liberal arts degree or moving to Germany to study engineering. After talking for 20 min straight, I responded:
“Wow, it sounds like you are in a tough spot deciding what to do. You seem really passionate about arts but are unsure of whether it will be a sustainable career. Is that right?”.
This one remark made him feel that I had heard him. Knowing that I would keep listening, he began talking about combining arts and engineering by going into product design. Another 30 min passed where he just talked and I just listened. When he eventually came to close, I said:
“It sounds like you have really thought through this product design idea a lot. It seems to be a good middle ground for both your passions. So what’s holding you back?”
…and another 30 min session ensued. We eventually ended up talking for 2 hours straight. Well actually, it was 2 hours of him talking and me listening. I probably talked for less than 2 minutes. When we finished, he gave me a long hug and said how much my listening had meant to thim. It was one of the most meaningful conversations I’ve ever had.
Ask a meaningful question, shut up, and then probe further has been my go-to strategy ever since.
Tip #2: Do the “Get the other person to talk as much as possible” challenge
When you try to get someone to talk as much as possible, you need to figure out what the other person wants to talk about. You can’t settle with “Isn’t it nice weather today?” conversations. You have to find something the other person could talk with you for hours and still not be done.
You can’t listen unless the other is talking. If you are someone who likes to challenge yourself, embracing this challenge will encourage you to 1) find better conversation topics and 2) shut up and listen once you strike gold.
Tip #3: Think “I love listening to others” every time someone talks with you
If you repeat something to yourself enough times you eventually start to believe it. Listening is no different. If you want to be a good listener but finds it challenging to “get in the zone”, repeat the thoughts:
“I love listening to others”
“I feel alive when I give others space to share”
“I am proud of being someone who makes others feel heard”
With enough repetition, you will soon start craving to listen to others.
Summary of key points
I hope you have found this Listening to Others series insightful. Here is a quick summary of the five main takeaways from this series:
- To listen you must suspend your own needs. You can’t make someone feel heard unless you show you understand the situation from their eyes.
- Ask yourself: “Why would they say that?”. The criticizing comment “We never go out” might actually mean “I love you and I don’t feel we spend enough quality time together”.
- The other person is always right. People always make decisions that make perfect sense to them. If they seem irrational to you, it’s only because you don’t see what they see.
- Ask the other person: “Why do you think that way?”. This will invite them to explain their thinking so you can attack the issue together.
- Always validate others’ emotions. Listen to what they are feeling and let them know that they are perfectly ok in feeling that way.
Let’s go out there and be the best listeners we can be – not for ourselves, but for the people we love.
Did you enjoy this post? Check out:
- Listening to Others Part 1: Why people don’t listen to you and you can do about it
- Listening to Others Part 2: Two techniques for avoiding arguments
- Listening to Others Part 3: Why people resist your input and two techniques for finding solutions together
- Listening to Others Part 4: Why others become upset when you try to help – and the #1 thing you can do differently
- Listening to Others Part 5: How to control your emotions to listen when someone frustrates or angers you