@kr's post on audiobooks reminded me of the importance of listening as a skill. I'm sure many of you have noticed that many people in your lives are not good listeners. I thought I would share some reasons why you should work on getting better at this skill in the new year.

Reasons to become a better listener:


You will be surprised what you can learn from others. One of Jordan Peterson's 12 rules for life is to listen. It goes something like this. Always assume there is something you can learn from another person. Even if you know you disagree with them. Even if you think you're right and they are wrong. You may gain deeper understanding about what makes them tick. Maybe where they got these ideas. Maybe you might even gain a better understanding about why you might not be 100% right. If you go into a conversation as if you have nothing to learn, you certainly will not learn anything.
I have always enjoyed talking to people older than myself. It is fascinating to me to learn about their experiences. How they view the world. I seldom see the world the way they do but I still enjoy listening.

It helps others

It is really surprising to me how many people seem to feel as if they are never heard. Like others do not care what they have to say. When you listen and show interest in someone else you show them respect and care. This is something people in our culture truly need. You may just make someone's day by asking them a question and really truly wanting to hear what they have to say.

People will seek you out

When you actually listen you often gain a friend. I have found that when I focus on the other person over myself in a conversation these people want to talk to me more often. They feel connection. They feel like someone cares. Who doesn't want a friend that will listen? I know I do.

People open up to you

When people feel seen and heard they open up. They share the real self. They can be vulnerable. This is a key to a real lasting relationship. Listening and not jumping to offer solutions but rather seek to understand first. I have found that some of my friends were slow to really talk to me at first. I listening and asked questions but it took them a while to realize I was sincere. We have some much falseness in our culture today that many people (like me) do not take people at their word. I have had far more experiences where someone asked about me to find out they were just being "polite" or not really thinking about what they were saying. Don't be like that.

Some Tips

One method I sometimes use is to treat the conversation like I'm interviewing the other person. And I mean a good interview. The kind where they are the focus, not me. Sometimes people don't want to talk about themselves, I try to not push but often they do want to talk about what they think about something. Its amazing what you can learn by listening.
Another method I employ is instead of thinking about what I'm going to say in response to the other person I try to think of second and third layer follow up questions. It is very easy to fall into the trap of one upping a conversation. When someone mentions an experience it is easy to say, yeah that happened to me and then completely take over the conversation. Be aware of this trap. While it might be fun to relay your story being more generous with your attention has often rewarded me with very interesting stories.
A final tip is to look into their eyes. Put your device away. Give them your attention. I have found that MANY people have no clue how obvious their dis-interest is to me. We send so many signals and most people are terrible at hiding their real attention.
Before this post I had never connected conversational listening to audiobooks but I can see it now. If you struggle with listening to an audiobook you may also lack good listening skills. I'm a very audio driven person so it just never occurred to me. Maybe try an audiobook and see if you can sit and listen to it. I usually listen to audiobooks while doing manual labor or driving. I feel like the info really sticks with me but for those of you that don't have this experience maybe try listening to audiobooks and see if it helps your listening skills.

My Challenge

So, my challenge to you in the new year is to work on your listening skills. You may be surprised at how hard listening is. A great person to try this with first is your spouse or significant other. Maybe a co-worker or friend. You can do it with anyone. Even a stranger. Its fun and in my opinion makes the world just a little bit better.
Always assume there is something you can learn from another person
This mindset is so important, and sometimes worth brute-forcing into your mind.
The conversations are easy and natural when I already believe I'm talking to someone I can learn from, and it's someone I find interesting.
When those 2 things aren't the case is when it gets tricky. But that's where the reps are.
When I don't believe I can learn something and I don't find it interesting I try to get to why this person believes what they say and why. If they have logic or if it is emotional. My goal is not to argue or convince but rather understand. This will help me communicate with them.
It is sometimes VERY hard for me to do this because of how I'm wired but I think working on this makes me a better person. I have given up on arguing and trying to convince people. Especially those that do not use logic or reason. And this is most people I have met. In my experience most people live in emotion not reason and thought. I think this is getting worse rather than better for many reasons.
great idea, its something that i’ve learned from hosting podcasts.
i always have a list of prepared questions ready to go before i record a pod, but the best episodes tend to be the ones where i get so captivated by a guest’s stories that all my follow-up questions come from simply listening to their initial responses.
Yeah, your interest shows through in the show.
I remember asking a new high school friend how he knew so much interesting stuff and his answer was "I listen to people." That really wrinkled my brain and I've been a listening evangelist ever since.
One of the big traps I try to avoid, and I see other people make often, is focusing on making a particular point even if the conversation is flowing away from it being relevant. Stay in the moment.
Also, don't try to use conversation to prove how smart you are to the other person. Take a genuine interest in talking to them and getting something out of it. I have a relative who just uses conversations to shoehorn in all of his favorite talking points, even though we all know them all already and it only detracts from the discussion.
2👂👂 1 👄 reason for that
I hear you! Great post. One more thing to add.
I might want people to give me the emotional support that I think I need but really I have those emotions so it's my honor to give other people the respect that I want. For me that just lets me focus on improving myself and not worrying what other people think (about me).
When I come in contact with my wife. I need to listen, to care, to learn from her experience of the day. I might want to get frustrated because I can't focus on reading, shit posting or something else but instead I give her the respect (look again) that she deserves.
Well said! I try to really listen to my wife even though she sometimes bores me with talk of children’s utensils n diapers n generally unattractive stuff related to raising kids haha
Yep, exactly.
Great post! I resolve to practise active listening with my 4-year-old son even though he frustrates me with his non-stop bullet-train talking and incessant Why’s. A few days ago, he shared that he had played with a Lego pig at school. Today, I was able to follow up on that and teach him the spelling of “pig” while taking him to school. It makes me feel like a great parent haha
If you want a relationship with your children listen to them. There will come a day when they will not talk your ear off.
Thank you for the perspective
great challenge. thoughtful post! Thank you
Becoming a better listener is an asymmetrical bet. What does it cost you and what could you potentially learn?
Its hard to listen if you are malnutritioned tho. Use your diet to become grounded and more aware and better listener. Hint: Excess consumption of carbs will make you insulin resistant, unfocused and low energy, and down the road chronically ill. Lower your consumptions of carbs today! Eat mostly fat and protein instead. Thats all. Good luck on your voyage.
Love it. Thanks for this.
One additional tip. Try actually TURNING OFF your phone before having a solid conversation with someone. That step really changes things.
That part of your brain, that's always like "hold on, just gotta check something on my phone" is turned off. The parts of your brain that you WANT to be active, have a fighting chance.
Breathing through your nose helps