Sharing my learnings from the book, Listen Like You Mean It by Ximena Vengoechea
Listen Like You Mean It by Ximena Vengoechea
For many of us, listening is simply something we do on autopilot. We hear just enough of what others say to get our work done, maintain friendships, and be polite with our neighbors. But we miss crucial opportunities to go deeper—to give and receive honest feedback, to make connections that will endure for the long haul, and to discover who people truly are at their core.
Fortunately, listening can be improved—and Ximena Vengoechea can show you how. In Listen Like You Mean It, she offers an essential listening guide for our times, revealing tried-and-true strategies honed in her own research sessions and drawn from interviews with marriage counselors, podcast hosts, life coaches, journalists, filmmakers, and other listening experts.
- Learn how to listen empathetically and deepen your connections with others
- surface listening is when you hear the words that someone is literally saying but don’t bother paying attention to the underlying meaning. Surface listening might cause you to offer unsolicited advice, interrupt your conversation partner, or assume her experience has been the same as yours. You should instead engage in empathetic listening. This involves making a concerted effort to understand the meaning behind your conversation partner’s words. This activates the listening loop – a virtuous cycle in which your partner feels free to express her emotions, and you in turn are encouraged to express your own.
- Empathy – being able to imagine what someone else is feeling without necessarily injecting your own experiences into the conversation. To foster this quality, remind yourself that the conversation isn’t all about you, and ask questions specific to the other person
- humility – refraining from passing judgment on your conversation partner’s experiences. reassure your partner that she’s free to share everything – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
- curiosity – being open to what your partner has to say, even if it’s not a topic toward which you’re naturally inclined. Find something that interests you in whatever your partner has to say, and you’ll open the door to a conversation that satisfies everyone.
- there are bound to be certain times of day when your energy is low and you find it hard to be fully present. When that’s the case, the quality of your conversations suffers greatly. Being fully present is a crucial aspect of empathetic listening.
- self-awareness – Be mindful of your energy levels and mental state during a conversation.
- pay attention to how your conversation partner is feeling
- observe your conversation partner’s emotional indicators (body language, word choice, voice & tone)
- Listening style – role you gravitate toward in conversation
- explainer – the kind of person who offers a rational answer for everything, even when your conversation partner might not want her feelings analyzed
- identifier – someone who always tries to relate a friend’s experiences to your own at the risk of making the conversation all about you
- interviewer, who asks so many questions that the conversation ends up feeling like an interrogation
- When you’re aware of your default listening style, you can adapt it to suit your conversation partner’s unique needs
- look for hidden needs in your conversation partner’s words
- do your best to switch modes accordingly.
- Deepen a conversation with connecting questions and then confirm your understanding.
- To craft a great connecting question, it’s important to frame it neutrally. Each question should be designed to elicit an open response rather than a specific type of reply
- the best connecting questions start with the words how or what. Questions like this don’t force a binary yes-or-no answer, and they can result in surprising responses.
- Be especially careful not to hunt for specific answers to your questions. This can easily lead to two-track conversations, in which you incorrectly assume you and your conversation partner are on the same page. To avoid these, ask yourself how your conversation partner feels about what he’s saying, and then summarize aloud what you think you’ve heard.
- “Yes, and” is also a great principle to keep in mind during everyday conversation. Instead of shutting down a conversation when it heads in an unexpected direction, we can instead use our partner’s ideas as building blocks.
- always be willing to incorporate new information you receive about your partner’s feelings and perspective.
- pay attention to your conversation partner’s responses to monitor whether you’re heading in the right direction.
- another great way to help a conversation along is by using silence. A brief pause can work wonders for getting a conversation to go where it needs to.
- Politely and carefully redirect conversations that go off-track. Redirecting can help get a conversation back on track, but it can also serve a number of other purposes. One of them is to fend off avoidant behavior.
- Misunderstandings can be all too easy when we speak with people who are different from us in some way. It doesn’t matter who you’re talking to – you should always be mindful of your differences and potential areas for misunderstanding.
- if you’re the person with more power, be sure to create a safe space for your conversation partner. Show a willingness to be honest, and you’ll encourage others to do the same. On the other hand, if you’re the person with less power, imagine your conversation partner isn’t your boss or teacher but just a fellow human being.
- When taboo topics like politics, religion, or child-rearing come up in conversation, expect discomfort. Don’t avoid it – instead, lean into the negative feelings. And don’t aim for the conversation to end in agreement among all parties – rather, shoot for mutual understanding
- you probably have your own individual “hot spot” topics that are challenging for you personally. When one of these subjects crops up, have a plan to calm yourself down, perhaps by repeating a soothing mantra or imagining a tranquil vista.
- Exit conversations that become too toxic or conflict with your priorities.
- Time-boxing involves setting up a time limit for the conversation up front, before it actually begins.
- asking for a time-out.
- no matter how a conversation ends, it’s essential to spend some time recovering afterward
- To avoid listener’s drain – do your best to understand and honor your limits.