Missed the first posts in this series? Check them out here.
#5 Listen Intently
One the best ways to challenge your brain and have an never-ending stream of ideas and inspiration is to become a student of life. All of life can be a classroom — if we’re a willing learner.
Everyone — no matter who they are — can teach you something. And most people can teach you amazing things, if you’ll only but listen.
I’m not one who is usually short on words (I’m pretty sure my family would readily attest to that, too!), but when I am intentional about listening and asking good questions, I’m always amazed at how much I learn.
Focus on the Other Person
Most people really like to talk about themselves and their interests. The trick is to fully focus on whomever you are talking to, be genuinely interested, and to find out what gets them fired up and excited.
If I meet someone for the first time and I don’t have any background or context for that person, I’ll often say, “Tell me about yourself.” This is one of my favorite ways to open up a conversation with someone I don’t know — and you never know where it will lead!
I’ve learned about tragedies, triumphs, health issues, a person’s dreams and hopes, and so many other fascinating things as a result of this simple question. It’s extremely open-ended but it rarely fails to produce an interesting discussion with just about everyone.
Put Away Your Phone
If you want to have a meaningful conversation, you’ve got to stop multi-tasking. Don’t be texting another friend, checking Facebook or Twitter, or searching for something on the internet.
I love the efficiency that smartphones have brought into my life. But, on the flipside, I despise how we’re unable to disconnect from the noise so we can really listen to what someone else is saying.
If you need to be on your phone when in the middle of a conversation, explain why and take care of whatever it is you need to do. Then, turn it off and turn your attention fully to the person in front of you.
Ask Followup Questions
As another person is talking, listen carefully for interesting tidbits that you want to probe deeper into. I’m always amazed at how many things I learn just by asking questions that springboard from a statement someone makes.
Don’t be shy — even if you don’t really know much at all about what a person is interested in, you can still learn so much. In fact, sometimes it’s more fun to talk to someone who has little knowledge of a subject but immense interest.
Reiterate Their Statements
I’m constantly asking why and forever prodding to get to the root of why a person responds a certain way, feels a certain way, or believes a certain way. One of the things I find is really helpful is to reiterate what I just heard someone say to me to make sure I understood and then to ask a followup question. “So you’re saying such and such, do you think that’s because of so and so?”
You might be completely off-base or maybe you misunderstood, so reiterating someone’s statements and then asking a followup question is a great way to make sure you’re both on the same page, to engage in a good conversation, and to never run out of interesting things to talk about!
By putting forth effort to listen and discuss things in-depth with others, not only is my brain expanded, but I also often come away with new ideas for blog posts or series as a result of these conversations!
What are your best suggestions for becoming a better listener? I’d love to hear!