What I Learned From Listening to Others

I have a tendency to talk about myself.
A lot.
I forget about other people.
A lot.
I want to talk about myself and I forget about other people.

But I started going against this around Thanksgiving last year.

And I learned so much.

In this blog post, I’m going to tell you what I’ve learned from being interested in others’ lives for the past three months:

 

I learned more about a person when I genuinely listened.

If you’re going to take the time to listen to someone rather than thinking about how you’re going to respond or the next thing you could say about yourself, you’ll learn a lot more about a person. Not only will you actually hear what they’re sharing with you, but people also drop a lot of clues in their speech that you may not pick up on, and they themselves aren’t aware of. You’ll hear the words they’re sharing about themselves, and even what they’re not saying. Which is the next thing I learned…

 

I learned how to better read people.

People give a lot of non-verbal keys. Facial expressions, and all kinds of body language (tone of voice, hand motions, the way they’re sitting, etc). There is so much to be learned about a person just by watching them. Next time someone is talking to you, focus on them. Don’t think about how you’re going to respond. Don’t think about what you’re going to share about yourself. Just focus on the information they’re given you, on purpose or not. You’ll find yourself reading and understanding them better than you could have otherwise.

 

I learned how to ask good questions.

This was much easier than I expected. When we’re talking to people, we tend to focus on how we’re going to respond and making sure we’re coming up with clever responses. (No place is this more evident than a first date.)  But honestly, if we can let go and forget about ourselves for a second and listen to someone else, you’ll discover how much there is to say. When you‘re listening, picking up on non-verbal cues, and paying attention to the words that are coming out of your companion’s mouth, you’ll find plenty of stuff to talk about. Even someone who doesn’t talk much often drops sentences you can go somewhere with. An example: I was telling someone about how I’ve applied to a few places for a job but hadn’t gotten any yet. He suggested that I look at Amazon. I thought it was a great idea and after thanking him, I asked, “Did you work for Amazon?”

See? Just something he was saying to help me out, but I used it to continue the conversation.

Any suggestion, comment, passing reference… anything can lead to a good followup question. There are so many topics you can cover with someone if you just pay attention to their words.

 

I learned that even those who aren’t talkative can talk for hours when you show that you’re interested.

The best way to carry on a conversation? Show interest, and be engaged. If you’re paying attention to everything they’re saying and asking good follow-up questions, you’ll find that a lot of the time, they have a lot to share. People are eager to talk about themselves, so let them. Don’t worry if they’re typically quiet. They’ll be running the conversation in no time. It’s incredibly interesting to hear, and you have no idea what you might learn about the world.

 

I learned how to better create a conversation.

All of these things led to one conclusion: better conversations. The more I focused on the other person, asking good questions, showing that I was interested, and being engaged, the better the conversations I had. I learned more about people and in the process, more about myself. I saw my tendencies to focus on myself, and how to change that to focus on other people.

 

Asking questions isn’t as hard as you think. We tend to think we have to come up with really interesting things to say and have good comments on everything our companion says, but this isn’t true. This is going against the exact thing we’re trying to avoid: someone thinking we’re not listening and that we are not interesting. People appreciate listening more than engagement. And the more you listen, the more you learn. The more you pay attention, the more you have to learn. When you take the time and make the point to listen to others, there is more to learn than even what I’ve shared.

I told you in this blog post what I’ve learned from testing this out.

What could you learn?

Try it out. And let me know what you think.

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