I thought I was a good listener.
I thought my habits and practices were up to snuff, and appreciated by my friends and family. And then I started this podcast, Talk Human To Me. Soon after, reality punched me in the face:
I'm a bad listener.
Here are just a few habits that made me a bad listener:
- Instead of listening more deeply when hearing something cool, I found myself waiting for them to stop speaking, so I could respond, making me miss most of what else they said.
- I zoned in too much on topics that mattered more to me, subsequently zoning out topics that mattered deeply for my guest.
- I stayed too close to script, and obsessed over interview structure, sometimes abruptly moving to another topic before the guest could go more deeply into a subject.
- I found myself affirming my own biases and opinions during conversation, rather than setting all opinions aside, and being fully present and listening to the whole perspective.
I want to be a better listener.
So, I learned 3 tips to start with:
1. Empty my head when someone begins speaking.
Let go of any preconceptions and assumptions. Let go of my own personal beliefs and stances. Just the presence of these thoughts disable my brain from genuinely empathizing.
Practicing this brings trust to the conversation. The person being listened to relaxes and freely offers thoughts, rather than set up a defensive guard.
2. Stop having a goal of responding.
Don't just wait for them to stop talking, so I can speak. Don't just wait for them to wrap up their thoughts, so I can inject my own ideas. When I go into conversation with goals of dazzling them with Yoda-type responses, this makes me incapable of deeply listening.
Practicing this enables deeper conversation; everyone participating feels heard, validated, and empowered to fully contribute and explore thoughts and ideas.
3. It's OK to say, "I can't listen right now."
When you're tired, preoccupied, or distracted, going into a conversation provides zero value to all parties involved. Persisting as planned will produce negative outcomes.
First, I figured out my circadian rhythm, and always planned conversations around my most alert and present timeframes. If I feel like crap, I let them know I want to be fully present during the conversation, and offer concrete alternative times and dates. Caveat: I need to do this way in advance, because last minute cancellations equally suck.
There you go! That's 3 Tips I'm getting started with.
Want to go down this rabbit hole with me?
Here are four articles I started with: