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  • Being a good listener is one of the most important and enchanting life skills anyone can have.

  • Yet few of us know how to do it, not because we're evil, but because no one has taught us how and—a related pointno one has listened to us.

  • So we come to social life greedy to speak rather than listen, hungry to meet others, but reluctant to hear them.

  • Friendship degenerates into a socialised egoism.

  • Like most things, it's about education.

  • Our civilization is full of great books on how to speakCicero's "Orator" and Aristotle's "Rhetoric" were two of the greatest in the ancient worldbut sadly no one has ever written a book called "The Listener".

  • There are a range of things that a good listener is doing that makes it so nice to spend time in their company.

  • Firstly, they egg us on.

  • It's hard to know our own minds.

  • Often, we're in the vicinity of something, but we don't quite close in on what's really bothering or exciting us.

  • We hugely benefit from encouragement to elaborate, to go into greater detail, to push just a little further.

  • We need someone who, rather than launch forth on their own, will simply say those two magic words: Go on

  • You mention a sibling, and they want to know a bit more.

  • What was the relationship like in childhood, how has it changed over time?

  • They're curious where our concerns and excitements come from.

  • They ask things like: Why did that particularly bother you? Why was that such a big thing for you?

  • They keep our histories in mind; they might refer back to something we said before and we feel they're building up a deeper base of engagement.

  • Secondly, the good listener urges clarification.

  • It's fatally easy to say vague things; we simply mention that something is lovely or terrible, nice or annoying.

  • But we don't really explore why we feel this way.

  • The friend who listens often has a productive, friendly suspicion of some of our own first statements and is after the deeper attitudes that are lurking in the background.

  • They take things we say like, "I'm fed up with my job" or "My partner and I are having a lot of rows,"

  • and they help us to focus in on what it really is about the job we don't like or what the rows are really about.

  • They're bringing to listening an ambition to clarify the underlying issues.

  • They don't just see conversation as the swapping of anecdotes.

  • They're reconnecting the chat you're having over pizza with the philosophical ambitions of Socrates,

  • whose dialogues are records of his attempts to help fellow Athenians understand their ideas and values in a better way.

  • Thirdly, good listeners don't moralise.

  • The good listener is acutely aware of how insane we all are.

  • They know their own minds well enough not to be surprised or frightened about this.

  • They're skilled at making occasional little positive sounds: Strategic "mmmm..." that delicately signal sympathy without intruding on what we're trying to say.

  • They give the impression that they recognize and accept our follies; they're reassuring us they're not going to shred our dignity.

  • A big worry in a competitive world is that we feel we can't afford to be honest about how distressed we are.

  • Saying one feels like a failure could mean being dropped.

  • But the good listener signals early and clearly that they don't see us in these terms.

  • Our vulnerability is something they warm to rather than are appalled by.

  • Lastly, good listeners separate disagreement from criticism.

  • There's a huge tendency to feel that being disagreed with is an expression of hostility.

  • And obviously, sometimes that's right.

  • But a good listener makes it clear that they can really like you and, at the same time, think you're wrong.

  • They make it plain that their liking for you isn't dependent on constant agreement.

  • They are powerfully aware that a really lovely person could end up a bit muddled and in need of some gentle untangling.

  • When we're in the company of people who listen well, we experience a very powerful pleasure.

  • But too often, we don't really realize what it is that this person is doing that is so nice.

  • By paying strategic attention to the pleasure, we can learn to magnify it and offer it to others, who will notice, hear, and repay the favour in turn.

  • Listening deserves discovery as one of the keys to a good society.

Being a good listener is one of the most important and enchanting life skills anyone can have.

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B1 UK listener strategic deeper pleasure socrates lovely

Being A Good Listener

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    Shirley Huang posted on 2016/08/11
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