Listening is not the opposite of talking. We engage in conversations for various reasons. Conversation requires at least two people but is only effective if one person is doing the talking at a given time. There’s nothing quite as unpleasant as listening to two or more people talk over each other—just let the other person talk. If you’re not talking, you should be listening.

Types of listeners:

  • The Daydreamer: He is physically present but mentally absent. He either doesn’t care what the person has to say or is mentally engaged to something more important to him.
  • The One-Upper: He eagerly waits for the opportune time to tell his story, which is obviously better than the other’s, usually to impress. This method is typically only effective when when his story is told immediately after the other’s, as it’s not very effective to try and one-up a story that was told 2 or more stories ago.
  • The Corrector: He is quick to correct any and all details of the story that he knows is incorrect, whether it be the accuracy or grammatical correctness of statements made.
  • The Doubter: He is quick to question or even dismiss the story of all credibility, suggesting that the storyteller is liar without directly calling him a liar.
  • The Antagonist: He is armed, ready for battle, and out to kill, hungry to instigate a heated argument—usually a know-it-all.
  • The “Me-Too!”-er: He is so excited that someone else shares his similar story that he can’t wait for the other to finish so he can tell his story, which is sooo similar to the other’s!

I realize that some of these examples have their proper time and place, but most of the time, don’t be that guy or that gal.

True listeners are learners.

Learn about someone to build a lasting relationship; learn about a need so you can better know how to meet it; learn about a problem by understanding the story and context behind it so you can properly assess and fix it.

There’s a wealth of knowledge to be learned, but the problem is we’re too busy talking or waiting for our chance to talk—If you’re talking, you’re not learning.

Don’t interrupt. Dig deeper by asking questions. Don’t just listen—learn.