We hear a lot about how to speak well in public, but very little about how to learn the equally important art of listening properly to others. Being a good listener is one of the most important life skills anyone can have.
The truth is that few of us know how to be good listeners, because no one has taught us how. We enter social life greedier to speak rather than listen, hungry to meet others but reluctant to listen to them. Friendship degenerates into a socialised egoism. Like most things in life, it is about education.
Our civilisation is full of great books about how to speak, and great orators such as Cicero and Aristotle. But do you know of any great book written about being a good listener? So, what do you need to be a good listener?
Egg people on
This means to encourage others to share what is bothering them, to ask for some details about their story or problem. To be a good listener most of all means to listen to people. That way you build a deeper base of engagement with others.
This means that you are supposed to ask “why” when someone tells you that he or she doesn’t feel well. A person who listens often has productive friendly suspicions and focuses deeply on your feelings, analysing what is really bothering you.
Do not moralise
Good listeners never moralises. On the contrary, they sympathise with you, making you feel more confident about sharing, even sharing our greatest fears. They know that people are vulnerable and do not use their vulnerability against them.
Distinguish disagreement from criticism
Good listeners make it clear that they really like you but at the same time can disagree with you. Liking someone is not dependent on constant agreement with them.
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