If You Listen, You May Learn Something New
Too many people love the sound of their own voices, but they simply don’t realise how detrimental this is to their personal development. They repeat themselves to countless people countless times ad nauseum, and no matter how interesting their thoughts might be, they will always be the same thoughts running around, for now, and ever more. It is comforting to be surrounded by your (mostly positive) self-talk, but not much of it will give you incremental insights or breakthrough discoveries.
No, the really good stuff comes when you listen.
Thinking about what you are gong to say next takes an awful lot of energy. If you are fixated on getting your point across, you will concentrate on what you are going to say next, and inevitably your conversation partner’s message will remain superficial. If, on the other hand, you are fixated on understanding what the other person has to say, you will be able to use every conversation as a learning experience.
You can learn so much about someone else not only by what they say but how they say it. Their tone will tell you about their mood, their body language will hint at their attitude towards you, the words that they choose will convey a whole new depth of meaning. You can only understand this stuff if you are “present” for the conversation – and that means that you can’t be obsessed by what you are saying next.
That is what pauses are for.
When you listen to someone, it is perfectly okay to pause before you reply to them. If you reply like a machine gun the moment they stop speaking (or even worse interrupt them in mid-flow), they will feel like their viewpoint is being utterly disregarded. If, on the other hand, you take the time to digest their words, they will consider your reply that little bit more carefully.
The best learning comes with this give and take. No conversation flourishes when it is a one-way street, but if both partners view listening to one another as the key goal of the conversation, ideas will flow, be digested and flow back.
To give a recruitment example, this is what the best interviews are about. Rather than coming to the interview with a set of fixed questions, the interviewer should give the candidate a chance to “lead” the conversation, and in truly listening to their story the interviewer can ask questions to understand what they need to understand. The candidate, in turn, should understand what these questions are getting at, and both parties leave with a true understanding of what each other are all about. In my experience, too many interviewers go into the interview with a set idea of what they want to hear, rather than an open mind about what they might be able to hear. There is a big difference.
There are many benefits to becoming a better listener, but for me, it comes down to one motivation: learning.