Active Listening is an extremely underrated and, for the most part, unknown skill. But if you learn to develop this skill you can reap unbelievable benefits in the form of charisma, confidence, credibility and trustworthiness. Read these 3 tips to improve your active listening skills.
Ever been around someone who just can’t stop talking? Did it drive you crazy? I run into these people all the time, with a few of these people being my friends. I actually have one friend who calls me up on the phone, and before I can ask how he’s doing, he starts telling me about his day, what happened, what didn’t happen, whether work was busy or slow, and what he has going on the rest of the week. Then he tells me he has to go and that we’ll talk later.
This interaction continues to happen 3-4 times a week, usually on the drive on his way to work, or on the drive on his way back home after work. It took me a few weeks to realize that he’s just bored on his way to work and wants to blab.
I’m sure I’ve done this before, but I would hate to be that person. It’s such an annoying thing to tolerate, and honestly, I thought it was a waste of my time at first. But here’s the thing, if you can create friends that love to talk to you and tell you every detail of their lives, it’s because they are comfortable around you and they trust you.
It took me a while to figure this out, but it’s a sign of friendship and trust. Ever since I realized that, I go out of my way to ask people questions and try to get them comfortable. I have a friend from college who always says “Everybody’s favorite topic is themselves.” And it’s so true. If you want to really get into someone’s good graces, ask them questions about themselves and genuinely get interested.
If you are having trouble getting interested or are getting bored, just remember that you are building trust with someone and giving them something that everybody loves and that not too many people talk about: attention.
People love getting attention, and they love talking about themselves and soaking up that attention. The problem is, most of us don’t realize how valuable our attention is as a gift to other people, which is probably why so many people try to talk your ear off trying to impress you or talk about what’s going on in their lives.
I’m not going to dissect this too much, but I will give a couple of tips that I use all the time in order to give my attention as a gift, listen to others, and build true connections, comfort, and friendships simply by listening to the other person and coaxing the best qualities out of them with grace and good intentions.
Asking questions is probably the #1 way to give your attention to someone because as someone gives you a piece of information, a question is an invitation to open up even more.
(I’ll use Wells as my subject)
V: Hey what’s going on?
W: Not much I’m just getting home from the gym.
V: Nice, what did you work out today?
W: Chest and back, my buddy told me about this killer chest-day routine that absolutely destroyed me.
V: Awesome! I love busting through a grueling workout, what exercises did you do?
This continues on in the same direction, but because I also have an interest in fitness I am asking him questions about his workout. He might have some really great information that has the potential to improve my own workouts, so I give him my attention, and investigate.
Most people tend to like talking about new things they discover, simply because they want to share their experience, it’s human nature. We are social creatures who, I believe, want to help each other.
So remember that the next time your buddy is talking your ear off, try to approach the situation from a perspective that he is trying to give you something of value. Once you open yourself up to this possibility and viewpoint, you may be surprised at the value you can extract from seemingly mundane conversations.
Steer Conversation in the Direction You Want
When you ask questions, it puts you in control of the conversation, and most people don’t realize this. If you are thinking of a normal social interaction between two people, it’s normal to imagine the person who is talking the most as being in control of the conversation. The reality is, it’s most often the person asking the questions.
When you break it down, the person who is doing all the talking is generating all of the momentum. They are basically freestyling in a certain direction, and by asking different questions you can steer the conversation the way you want it to go.
In the earlier example, I asked Wells what he was doing and he told me he just got back from his workout. Instead of asking him what muscle groups he worked out I could have asked him about his protein supplements, pre-workout mix, the music he likes to listen to, what gym he goes to, or I could ask about the amenities at the gym such as a smoothie bar, basketball court, yoga studio, or if there were any cute girls there.
Imagine me asking him any one of these questions and the direction I could have taken a conversation that started by me asking him what he was doing. I could have kept things on the topic of working out, or switched over to basketball, different gyms, smoothies, or girls. Follow ups to those questions could be anything from jamba juice, healthy snacks, sports, doing yoga on the beach, breathing exercises, or just about anything else.
Re-read this article, because it contains some truly groundbreaking information. Listening to others and asking them questions not only helps you to save energy and take the pressure off of you to keep others entertained, but encourages you to build a social presence and give a gift to the other person.
This allows them to blow off steam from the day and rev their engine as much as they want while you are in the driver’s seat steering the conversation and practicing your social skills. Everybody wins.
So next time you are listening to your loudmouth friend talk your ear off, try to frame your interaction in a different light. Remember that you can take control of the situation and direct the topic of conversation however you want, at the same time opening up the other person, building comfort and connection, and giving them the attention and appreciation that so many people desperately desire.
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