What Good Are Good Listeners?
Well, the logical reasoning is quite simple:
- 1. Everyone has an opinion about something. Sports. Favorite books. Legitimacy of unicorns. You name it. In addition,
- 2. People have an inherent, innate need for self-expression. It is an aspect of human nature, so nobody is an exception. Therefore,
- 3. The easiest way for people to express themselves is through voicing their opinions. However,
- 4. There are more talkers than listeners in the world. Everybody wants to be heard, but no one wants to hear anyone else's thoughts. Hence,
- 5. There is a low supply (and therefore high demand) of attentive listeners who will care about what the speaker has to say. Put simply
- 6. Listening to what others have to say is a direct way of showing that you care about another person.
- 7. I mean, who doesn't want a little extra care in their life. Right?
How Do I Start?
- Start by allowing the other person to lead the conversation.
- Let their train of thought gain steam. The more the other person talks out loud, the more his/her ideas will make sense to the both of you. And people absolutely l.o.v.e. when they can get their point across to someone else.
- Ask intelligent and discussion-provoking questions. Try to see where the person might not have elaborated enough and ask them to explain that.
- Nod or give some other small signal of confirmation that you are following their thought process.
- Stop them anytime you start to drift off. Stay focused and really try to understand the other person's point of view.
- Ask them about anything they've said already talked about. They will just fell like they are repeating themselves and that you are not paying attention.
- Change the subject too rapidly. That will make the conversation feel to broad and pointless.
- Start talking about yourself. Keep the conversation about the other person. He/she will feel more appreciated if someone (you) would talk about them for a change.
- Don't flatter the person too much. They will get bored eventually.
- Don't neglect the person for too long. They will feel forgotten.
Don't Overdo It
Really, there are no solid, black lines. It honestly very much depends on the your specific case. Find a healthy balance between focus, connection, yourself, the other person, and topic of choice. You know better than I ever will what your conversation partner wants to hear, so go with your gut.
When To Quit
If you find that you cannot maintain a conversation with a person for more than 30 seconds or you just keep going back to the same old clichés, perhaps you could ease off a bit. If you can't find mutual interests, you will have a very frustrating experience trying to find a topic for conversation. "Let go" of the person for a while. His/her interests will change; your interests will change. With luck, eventually, your interests will cross paths, and everything will be a lot smoother. But, perhaps, your interests will never cross. In that case, it maybe just wasn't meant to be. There are still many, many interesting and engaging people out there that you don't even know exist. You just have to find them.
Try to imagine the other person complexly. Figure out your needs and his/her needs, and find a balance. Your gut (or better, your heart) will know what to do. And if your heart is wrong, your head will learn from the mistakes. =)