Recently, my 16 year old son gave me what I consider to be a great compliment; he told me that I needed to talk more in conversations with other people. Of course a couple of weeks later someone else I know complained that I wouldn’t let her get a word in edgewise. Some days, I’m sure she’s right. But the fact that my kid who spends an enormous amount of time with me has observed me listening enough to comment on it makes me happy.
I love to talk. That came naturally to me. I also love to listen, but I had to learn that. Some people don’t find talking naturally appealing and learned to be good listeners that way. I will never be as good at listening as those people. But I did learn a secret that helped me be a better listener and enjoy it more: be interested.
Yes, I know. Some people aren’t interesting. Some topics scatter flies from the walls with their dullness. But a person talking is always interesting because they are always sharing something about themselves. Sometimes a person has something interesting to say. They may have knowledge or perspectives and ideas that you have not encountered before. Other times the way a person says what they have to say reveals something interesting about them. Maybe they are showing you that they are excitable or easily irritated or sweetly niave or whatever. When you take the time to listen to and be interested in another person talking, you are being given a peek into a mind that may be very different than your own. And I think that’s always interesting.
There will always be people who can’t keep a conversation going on without help. And you have interesting things to share as well. But if you wish you were a better listener, try listening a little differently than usual. Ask follow-up questions when someone’s done talking rather than chipping in your 2 cents. Bring up a topic and ask for the other person’s opinion. Tell a story and specifically invite the other person to share if they’ve ever had a similar experience. You might find that it’s much easier and more rewarding than you knew it to be.