Want people to listen to you? Talk less

‘Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.

Bernard Baruch

I encourage you to listen – really listen – to someone today.

Yes, it’s easy to say.  And hard to do.

When was the last time you felt someone listened to you?  Heard you?  Really heard what you were saying?

And when was the last time you really listened to what someone was saying? Really listened?  Really heard what someone else was saying – and didn’t interrupt or try to change their minds?

Last day? Last week? Last month? Ever?

And how did you feel after that conversation? 

When I have a good conversation – and keep my mouth shut for most of it – I feel energized.  I feel confident.  And since I’ve been listening, there’s was a good chance I learned something.

For me, listening to someone is a fundamental offer of respect. In fact, I like to be treated just that way.

Talk less, listen more

So I promote an 80:20 conversation rule. That’s 80 percent listening;  20 percent talking.

And, yes, I don’t meet my standard as often as I would like.

‘If you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. To be interesting, be interested.

Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People.

My thoughts and responses want to bubble up.  I want to be heard.  After all, it’s all about me. That’s what social media and celebrity worship teaches me to be successful. Right?  

Well, no.  

I remember both my grandmothers telling me that I’ve got two ears and one mouth. So listen twice as much as I speak.  

I believe listening is about building people up.  I succeed when others succeed. 

Easy to say, hard to do. I find it takes practice and self-awareness. It is worth the effort.

Set a goal to have a conversation with someone.  Pick a place where there are no interruptions.

Turn off your phone. Put it away out of sight.

Offer your complete attention. At a business meeting.  Backyard barbecue. Over a coffee.

Make sure to get your head in the game. Use active listening skills. Forget having to “be right” about everything – or anything.  You’re listening.  Not lecturing.

Perhaps start by talking first, then let go.  Ask about what they think about something in the news? Ask them what made them happy today? How are things going?

Let them know you want to hear what they say. Prove it by your actions.

Talk about what they want to talk about, not what you want to talk about.

Be ready with open-ended questions.  What’s next?  How did that happen?   Wow! What can you do about that?  

Be wary of making it an interrogation.  Especially if someone starts to open up about personal, private worries.

Don’t interrupt

Never interrupt. Instead, empathize.  Don’t criticize.

Mirror your partner’s body language.  Keep eye contact when they’re talking – listen with your eyes.

To keep someone talking – especially in a conversation that’s leaning toward an argument – try echoing what they say.  Show you understand. That you want to hear more. And aren’t telling them what to do.

 “This is so frustrating and upsetting,” you might hear.

“You’re frustrated and upset,” you might reply.

“Yes — it is so frustrating but I think I can…” you might hear as the conversation continues.

You listened.  Your conversational partner is empowered. I suggest you’ll be remembered.

Silence is golden

My favourite conversational tactic is silence.  I often frame it with a gentle nod. Sometimes I purse my lips a little as I lean a little closer.

Silence during an interview was one of my go-to tactics as a newspaper reporter for 30 years.  Ask an awkward, open-ended question. The other person answers. Then I don’t immediately ask another question. 

Let conversational anxiety nudge your partner to respond and fill the silence.  Golden.

Try slipping a little silence into your next a friendly conversation — or carefully into a disagreement. 

It’s a tool to be used with tact in a full-blown family fight.  I don’t advise glaring at your spouse with your mouth closed during an argument.  Based on personal experience, that’s not a communication tactic likely to produce an amenable response.

Now, after all that talk about listening to build up other people, I have a confession.

I like a good conversation because it usually builds me up just as much as my conversational partner.  And in truth, it’s a way to build my network of people.  Perhaps advance my career. Boost my ego.

To be, dare I say, admired as someone who listens. Someone who is remembered.

Beyond that, I am convinced listening trains me to better control and enjoy my life.

It’s confidence practice. Exercising my inner virtues. 

I can’t control what people say.  I can only control my response.

Here’s something amazing.  I’ve noticed that sometimes after I’ve listened to someone 

 I changed my mind.  Yes, it really happens.  I realized I was wrong.  Or at least not right.

So, I encourage daily exercise of conversational skills by keeping quiet. Training for self-confidence. So you’re remembered. 

Keeping quiet allows you to be heard.

What tactics do you use to enable and sustain great conversations?