I have seen a couple of tweets lately along the lines of “hey, we are bad listeners, and here’s how to get better”.
The premise is that we generally have two intentions by the time we speak:
- Venting / just want to get things out of our chests
- Looking for advice
And the argument is that there are two common communication problems:
- listeners don’t know which mode to switch to (understanding vs fixing)
- listeners don’t know how to do each mode properly
We would give advice when the other person wants to just vent, and we don’t know how to listen effectively.
“Do you want to vent or do you want advice?” Just learning now, after 40 years on earth, that this might be the most important question to ask whenever a friend or loved one is upset.
— Jada Yuan (@jadabird) July 1, 2019
The general sentiment / consensus is to put the responsibility on the listener.
When you’re not sure which, just ask: Do you need advice or just want to vent?
Like a fighting video game, let’s keep it interesting and attack this from all possible angles. Let’s also solve this problem from the other end.
As a speaker, we also have responsibility. We can get better at asking and setting the expectations before we speak.
- As a speaker: Make your intention clear (first to yourself and then to others) and then ask. _I just need to vent vs I need some suggestions._
- As a listener: Ask which mode do you need me to be in? _Do you need advice or just want to vent?_
Just ask. No one is mindreader. You can’t even read your own mind most of the time.
Mindful communication is a shared responsibility.
Get better listeners by being a better speaker. Listen better by asking.
Slightly related, this is another good communication hack:
My husband and I decided to start saying “I need attention”, and honestly, it’s a real relationship timesaver.
— Ally Hord (@hordie) June 27, 2019
Ask ask ask.
I have a couple of go-to thoughts to hold by the time I’m listening:
- Absorb, don’t evaluate
- How can I help?
- What does this person need?
- Why is he/she telling me this?
- There’s something there, let’s ask them (help them share deeper and wider)
A couple of my favorite pieces about art of listening, conversations, and asking questions:
- Celeste Headlee’s TED Talk: 10 ways to have a better conversation
- PodcastNotes on interview with Celeste on The Knowledge Project podcast
- Brandon Stanton on The Tim Ferriss Show: Brandon Stanton – The Story of Humans of New York and 25M+ Fans (#321)
- Cal Fussman on The Tim Ferriss Show: The Interview Master: Cal Fussman and the Power of Listening (#145)
This is pretty solid checklist as well:
Tips to be a better listener:
🤫 Listen quietly; show you’re present with nods not words
🧠 Don’t be thinking of what to say next
💬 Allow for pauses & silence
❓ Ask questions to help the speaker deepen or expand
🙅🏻♀️ Don’t feel compelled to fix or give advice
👂🏽You got this
— Dr. Emily Anhalt (@emilyca5) July 11, 2019
Also published on Medium.