HO HO HO!
I’ve been wanting to write about listening for SO. LONG. But I wasn’t sure how to get across what I wanted to say. Then the holidays came creeping in & I realized this is one of those times of the year where listening is at the forefront of my mind.
People love to talk about themselves. LOVE IT. The people who love it the most are the people who say they don’t. Everyone loves to talk about themselves & topics they adore. Period. They might ask you questions, and look as though they’re listening, but likely are waiting for you to finish so they can bring it back to something they experienced. You know you do it. I do too. Everyone does. I tell a story, you tell a story, I tell a story, you tell a story. No listening or engagement.
But listening is important.
SO SO SO important. And listening doesn’t mean staring in the general direction of a person talking & nodding your head.
I left a job several years ago that I absolutely hated. I dreaded work every day, hated what I was doing & was focused heavily on accomplishing as little work as possible while I job hunted for something else. I was only at the job for about 6 months. When I said I was leaving several people were really upset & sad to see me go. I looked like a deer in headlights trying to figure out why… How can these people be sad I’m leaving? I did a shit job on all my work, I put 5% energy into everything. I came late, left early. So, blah.
This company threw me a going away party. Offered to let me stay as long as I needed. Supported, encouraged my path, handed out all their contact information to stay in touch. Truly made me feel something special. I was completely stunned. I thought they were going to kick me out the second I gave them a chance!
I’m TOTALLY the type of person to reflect on situations that I don’t understand. Almost too much. I focus on a situation that’s happened until I figure out the psychology behind it.
Later, I realized these people liked me because all I did was actively LISTEN to them. I didn’t want to work, so I had conversations all day. (Winner employee, I know.) And I did NOT want to talk about myself, otherwise I would risk revealing my secret plans to quit. Eventually, I knew everything about everyone! I knew their families, their stories, their feelings, their pets, their pet peeves, their frustrations, their friggen health problems, boob size, weight, their happiness and their sadness. I could tell you more about each of the employees than the all of them combined knew about me. I knew every detail of their lives and offered comfort, a friend, gossip, bitching, a hug, whatever it was – I was there, front row. (Still avoiding actually working).
This was the first time I noticed the power of listening.
I realized how listening can make someone feel. Often times, all a person needs is someone to listen to them. I heard the craziest stories, ideas, & theories that I sometimes totally disagreed with, or often didn’t believe but I fucking went with it, fully on board. Intrigued, engaged, mesmerized, interested.
5 Listening Tips:
Don’t be shy or afraid. Ask one question – How is your dog doing? Do you have any travel plans? Have you read any good books? Do you actually enjoy work? Where did you get that dress? Where do you do your hair? When you ask one question, you’ll be able to keep the conversation moving for a long time, keep focusing on them.
Continue asking questions about a topic they’re on, several questions. Engage and respond.
Keep an open mind! Do NOT let your opinions get in the way of a topic that doesn’t agree with you. Ask more questions to understand where someone is coming from rather than start disagreeing or arguing right off the bat – try to understand them and their thoughts. How did they get there?
If you hear yourself start talking about… yourself – quickly bring it back to another question for them! It’s about them, not you!
Don’t be an asshole & push a topic they quite clearly don’t want to discuss. If they don’t appear interested in talking about a breakup they just had, ask them about their dog. Don’t push for the sake of learning the newest gossip, again it’s not about you, it’s about THEM. If the conversation goes long enough, put a few feeler questions about deeper topics out there but do NOT push them. However, people tend to open up more the longer they get to talk.
Listening is the most fantastic gift to give someone – free, easy & special.
Come this precious holiday season, practice shutting the fuck up & listening to the people around you. And be interested. Even people you don’t like or agree with. Listen, ask them questions, be an ear for them. Don’t think about yourself or how you feel or that awesome idea you have – it’s not about YOU! It’s about THEM! And their awesome ideas & stories. Them them them!
Listening is a constant work in progress, even for the best listeners – but it’s also my favorite quality to find in someone. A conversation between listeners goes the greatest depths w the most interesting results that gives you all the feelings. Layers + Layers can be discovered, and can be quite fun.
This is your friendly reminder to be a good listener this holiday season, and as always – be thoughtful 🙂