Today I came across an article on how to become a better listener. The author says that in any conversation, in addition to being able to hear what the opponent is saying, we also need to convey interest and involvement. The article covers some tips on how to convey that interest, including repeating what the person said, nodding, etc. And while all of these things can be in the conversation, just trying to do it on purpose feels fake to me.
But nodding really works, you might say. Yes, if it’s real or looks real, otherwise it might convey something else, like an attempt at manipulation or that you’re pretending to be an active listener but thinking of something else. It doesn’t help the conversation.
I have a better idea, which is also much simpler, because you don’t have to remember all the “tactics” of an active listener, but instead just be. It works for me most of the time.
What do you need to become a better listener?
All you need is to…
- Be in the moment and
- Sincerely listen
I understand that this may sound ridiculous, like the answer “to be a good listener, you need to listen”. But this brief decomposition actually helps us get deeper into the root of it. If you ask yourself, “Why am I not at the moment?” or “Why am I not listening now?”, you will probably answer that “It is not interesting enough to me right now and I have more important things to think about.”
I can remember many times when I was “not in the mood” to care what others had to say, or when I was preoccupied with my own “strong opinions” or when it was “not interesting” to listen to.
We are usually preoccupied with what we care about the most, and not with what others think. Understanding this actually leads us to answering the question, “How can I be in the moment and truly listen?”
I will share what helps me, and you will try to find out what will help you.
How do you become a better listener?
When I meet someone and I know that we will talk for a while — maybe 5 minutes, 15 minutes, etc., I just keep in mind the approximate interval — I imagine that everything else does not exist at the moment. It will return, but now everything has vanished. This means that I now have only one person left in the world, which means that this person cannot be uninteresting — we are social creatures.
Then I force myself to think that I have no expectations of what my opponent is going to say, and also have no idea about the reasoning, so I am now naturally interested in a detailed explanation.
This is work within the mind. Of course, we always have our own opinion and often “know” what others want to say and even why they say it, sometimes even “better” than they themselves. But this mental work helps to tune the mind to genuine interest.
If this is done successfully, you don’t have to worry too much about showing attention and care — your body will automatically show this as part of genuine interest and listening. I have also found that in this state I am better at taking in information and actually hearing my opponents rather than just listening to them. It took all my one-on-one meetings up to several levels.
And I nod when I’m actively listening, and sometimes I repeat, so that’s all good advice, but it’s much better when you’re really paying attention and listening, rather than trying to convey listening.
“The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is so we might listen more and talk less.” — Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 7.1.23