Have you noticed there’s a lot more talking and far less listening in our world today?

In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie shares a revealing story of human nature.  In the story, Carnegie attends a dinner party and chats with a botanist sitting next to him for several hours.  Carnegie listens intently as the botanist goes on and on about exotic plants and gardens.

At the end of the night, the botanist turns to the host, saying that Carnegie was “most stimulating” and “a most interesting conversationalist.”  The funny thing is that Carnegie had hardly said a word.

Carnegie recalled:  “I couldn’t have said anything if I had wanted to without changing the subject, for I didn’t know any more about botany than I knew about the anatomy of a penguin.  But I had done this: I had listened intently. I had listened because I was genuinely interested.  And he felt it.”

You might think that in order to endear yourself to someone, you need to talk about yourself, relate a similar story or offer advice.  In my own experience the less I say about myself and the more I refer to the person speaking, the better the speaker feels.  What’s more is oftentimes I learn something new.  And, what’s even truer is if you listen long enough to other people, you’ll hear just about everything.

More important is becoming a good listener.  As Carnegie’ teaches us, the truth about human nature is that people want to feel important and valued. Carnegie points out that few people in the world are immune to the flattery of someone paying attention to them.  We all do like flattery and some like it more than others.

You’d be amazed at how much people start to like you when you simply let them talk about themselves. And even more so when you’re actively listening and asking them follow-up questions. Some advice columns mention this as a “trick” for talking to a woman. But let’s face it, this is just basic human nature for men and women.

What You Need To Be A Good Listener

◆ You
◆ Somebody else
◆ A place you can sit and chat

A Gentleman Is Always A Good Listener – This is how you do it ::

◆ Actively listening to one person. Start by asking the person about something that interests them or something you know about
them.  Perhaps it’s a hobby or travel?   Make sure your body language shows that you are alert and attentive, and avoid distractions like the TV or your mobile phone. Look them in the eye and be fully present for their story.

◆ Try to focus on them and not worry about what you’re going to add. Don’t be one of those people who’s just waiting to talk.  Instead, focus on really listening to them and empathizing without making any judgments. And, this isn’t the time to offer advice.

◆ Sometimes it helps if you periodically replay or recap what the person has been telling you (“Wow, it sounds like X is happening” or “What I’m hearing you say is X.”). As you listen, try to think of potential follow-up questions so you can find out more about the story.

Just like Carnegie, you’ll find that if you try to be genuinely interested, it will come easily.

◆ You’ll sense the other person’s delight that somebody cares about their world. And you’ll both enjoy the conversation. You’re not only giving them the spotlight, you’re asking them to talk about something they’re comfortable with. After all, the one thing people know most about is themselves and their interests.

By being selfless in the conversation, you’ll reap so many more rewards. For one, you might actually LEARN something by listening. For another, your small “sacrifice” of letting the other person talk will be multiplied 10-fold in the form of better relationships.  You may even find that giving someone your undivided attention and truly listening for a moment is relaxing. In time, it will become second nature, and you’ll forget you ever had to “try” at all.

Your small “sacrifice” of letting the other person talk will be multiplied 10-fold.

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