When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new
~ Dalai Lama
There is a good reason why we have 2 ears, and only one mouth (aside form the obvious physiological reasons, of course). It’s so that we can listen more to others and talk less. This is easier said than done, because humans are social creatures and we love to talk.
Talking is great. We share our experiences, thoughts, ideas and feelings with others in order to impress, inform, persuade, gauge their reaction and so much more. The problem is that we love to talk about ourselves and our lives so much that we forget how to listen properly to others. It’s this inability to really listen when someone else is talking that impedes our ability to better understand, and forge closer relationships with, others. Not only that, but when we listen we can learn so much from other people and also have our beliefs and preconceptions challenged. Good conversations are the gateway to learning, understanding and growth. The great thing is that this works both ways, and you could be the one to help someone else by sharing you experiences and beliefs. However, if you’re not listening and paying attention to what they are saying, you won’t be able to help them because you won’t know what they need.
There are different types of listening, and nowadays it’s mostly done on a surface level. Too many people, when in a conversation, don’t give their full attention to whoever is talking. They hear only a fraction of the conversation because they are too busy thinking about what they are going to say next. But how do you think that makes the other person feel, when you don’t want to listen, but talk at them instead? Whether you realise it or not, when you do this, you are sending a message that you don’t find anything which they have to say to be interesting or important.
When in a conversation, you need to put your ego to one side and actually listen to what the other person has to say. Stop letting your mind wander onto what you want to say about yourself next, and just focus on understanding what you are hearing. This is how you forge closer and more meaningful relationships with people, by showing an interest in what they have to say and giving them your undivided attention. Your body language and your responses make it obvious when you are paying attention and when you are not, so don’t think you are fooling anybody by pretending to listen.
When you listen to somebody, you get a unique opportunity to view the world through their eyes. Everybody has something to teach us, whether it’s through their achievements or life experience, so approach conversations as an opportunity to learn. It may even be the case that you become the teacher, helping the other person to re-evaluate their ideas, or the inspiration for them to take their lives in a new direction.
Instead of merely exchanging pleasantries, or just talking at people, try to engage in meaningful conversations. Listen to, and try to get a better understanding of, the other person. Then, respond accordingly. Conversations are not one-sided lectures, but they are about sharing, discussing, challenging each other and learning. Effective conversations can help to forge deeper bonds with others, but also to challenge what you think to be true.
It’s no coincidence that those who are able to listen well, and hold effective conversations, tend to be the most successful. Listening and communicating effectively can make a person more likeable and help to grow their influence. After all, people like to feel appreciated so will seek out the company of those who they feel will listen to what they’ve to say. This can lead to better job and networking opportunities, but also forging stronger personal relationships.
So, the next time you are having a conversation with someone, try to listen twice as much as you are talking, and see what happens.