I always thought that I’m a pretty good listener, but after reading this book, I finally could admit that I am not.
Socializing is hard (for me). Been struggling with anxiety since my university graduation. I often crave a quiet me-time after one or two days full of meetings and meetups. I want to be a good listener. To listen. But I’m afraid that if I said nothing, the other person would think that I am rude, or feeling like talking to me is a waste of time, because he/she gets nothing from it.
A fruitful discussion is what I’m after all the time. So I work hard to say the right thing (in my opinion), I try to guide my discussion partner so he/she will continue his/her path to a better direction (in my perspective).
Still, I always feel like the other person isn’t saying everything that he/she wants to say. Like, I always get in the way. I wonder if there’s a better way to hold a conversation. Sure, I might need to be assertive in a negotiation or when I must present my argumentations during meetings, but I don’t think I need to be that kind of person all the time.
To be honest, most of the time, I just want to enjoy my silence while listening to other people’s thoughts. Would they still want to be friends with me if I do that? Could I still learn as much as I want if I do that?
I don’t think there are strict rules in conversation. If you wish to get a fruitful discussion, so be it, be assertive. If you wish to connect, maybe you should open yourself a little. And if you wish to ease someone’s sorrow, maybe you shouldn’t be too judgmental. Different person, different approach. The food and the place where you hold a conversation could be factors too.
What this book You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy does is telling you all the good reasons for why it’s okay for you to be silent in a conversation. What questions you should be asking to dig deeper into other people’s thoughts. What kind of responses you should be giving to not being plainly narcissistic or manipulative.
It’s really practical, and I’ve been trying some of the tips during meetings, and I feel much better afterward. I may still don’t know what the other person is thinking, but I feel satisfied because I think I have been doing my best in listening.
Apparently, silent gap in a conversation isn’t that bad, and asking “What else do you want to say? Is there anything else that you need me to know?” is (maybe) okay too.
It’s hard to listen and think at the same time, so it’s best to do one at a time. Don’t think about witty responses and smart replies when you’re listening to someone’s thoughts.
When you want to be a good listener, keep in mind that it’s about the people you are listening to, it’s not about you.