“Who is the best listener you know?”
“If somebody were to ask everyone in your circle of family, friends and colleagues who is the best listener they know, would they say it’s you?”
Those are two questions Adam Bryant posed recently in How To Be A Better Listener in the New York Times. I love both of those questions, and they really got me thinking. I’ve heard so many people say they want to lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking or drinking, give more money to charities, or learn a foreign language; so many of us set goals based on focusing on specific aspects of self-improvement. It’s refreshing to think of improving our listening skills as a means of self-improvement. And when we think of the world we live in, imagine if everyone became a better listener: what a difference that would make!
So many of my readers have commented on my listening techniques and asked me questions about listening. Since I’ve received so much feedback and interest in this subject, I decided to share the article. In it, he gives useful tips and explanations, along with practical Dos and Don’ts. He addresses some predictable aspects of good listening, like body language, avoiding distractions, being fully present, and not judging.
One insight I particularly appreciate is his description of using improvisational theater as a way to sharpen listening skills. In improve, we never know what will get tossed our way, so we have to pay attention every second and tailor every response to what happens spontaneously; we can’t have scripted responses. “The best kind of listening is about being comfortable not knowing what you’re going to say next, or what question you might ask. Trust that you’ll think of something in the moment based on what the other person just said. That will send a powerful signal to the other person that you’re truly listening to them.” I appreciate his calling attention to the importance of developing that comfort in the uncertainty of the moment and trust in our own ability to respond.
I also appreciate his description of how much we can learn by listening. “…But why not think about listening as a ticket to a free education? All you have to do is assume that everyone you meet has learned a thing or two in their lives, and that you can unearth those insights with a combination of genuine interest and some open-ended questions.”
I’m sending my gratitude to everyone who strives to be the best listener they can be.