Why listening is so seductive

ListeningThe man I started seeing a few weeks ago told me about a woman in a weekly group activity he attends who has become enamored with him and it makes him uncomfortable. When I asked what makes it uncomfortable he said, “I’m not at all attracted to her. She’s too effusive. She is always telling the others how I’m the first man in her life who has really listened to her.”

I realized that this skill is somewhat rare. People — even good friends — can go through the motions of listening. They do the right things: eye contact, head nodding, saying “uh huh,” “I see,” “yes.” But this phrase describes them best: “The porch light is on, but nobody’s home.”

They aren’t truly listening. How do you know? Because they ask you something a few minutes later that you’ve already stated. They were going through the motions to appear the attentive listener. But they weren’t really present. Perhaps they were thinking of a good story to tell you about what you just said, or a question to ask you, or heaven forbid, what they want for dinner.

But this guy is a good listener. He does all the signals that show he’s listening. He makes relevant comments or asks related questions. He may throw in his own stories, but it’s a give and take. I never feel he’s hogging the conversation or ignoring me.

And he remembers! For the next day, several days or even over a week. This is an anomaly in my experience. My ex could barely remember what I said once I was finished, and rarely the next day. And I’m not one of those non-stop talkers who prattle on. I’m very conscious of only sharing what I think would be of interest to the other, and then as truncated as I can be without the details unless he probes.

Tom PetersListening well can be alluring. But how you listen says a lot about you and the importance you place on the speaker. I can be a lousy listener if I don’t respect the speaker. Tom Peters said, “The highest compliment you can pay a customer is to listen.” This applies to someone you’re dating as well.

In communication workshops I lead I say, “If you change your listening, you change your relationships.” If you start listening to someone who you’ve previously half listened to, it will shift how they experience you. I can nearly guarantee it will be for the better.

So are you a good listener to your dates? How do you make sure you listen well, even with the distractions of loud restaurants or bars or even Starbucks blending beverages?

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8 responses to “Why listening is so seductive”

  1. samhorn Avatar


    You’re so right about many people being perpetually preoccupied and not really listening because they’ve got other things on their mind.

    In fact, Fran Liebowitz once described someone as, “He doesn’t listen, he just waits for his turn to talk.”

    In my Tongue Fu! and ConZentrate seminars and books, I suggest you can really listen to other people by “Giving ’em L.”

    LOOK the other person in the eye (this keeps you focused on their face instead of letting your eyes and attention wander)

    LEAN forward (this “edge of the seat” posture indicates you’re literally and figuratively reaching out to them and eager to hear what they have to say)
    LIFT your eyebrows. (Try it. It’s almost impossible to be distracted when you lift your eyebrows because it animates your interest and piques your curiosity.)

    Next time one of your blog readers find themselves preoccupied and not really paying attention to the person they’re with, maybe they can “Give ’em L” and be one of those rare individuals who genuinely listens and connects.

    Please keep these blog entries coming, Goddess. They’re a delight to read.

    Sam Horn

  2. john clark Avatar

    Goddess –

    Thanks for the reminder.

    You made me squirm as I realized the number of times I have done exactly what you’re describing.

    Even since I have become conscious of it and decided it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing, it has been a challenge to change.

    Do you think that there is any validity to the observation that social roles over long periods of time have led to males unconsciously scanning the environment for danger most of the time? Somehow the idea that perhaps I came by this honestly makes it easier to work on letting it go. Or at least bringing it under my conscious control so that I can decide when and where to use it.

    I am excited about Sam’s “L Strategy” and can’t wait to try it out. Thanks, Sam.

    By the way, one of my favorite excuses for not listening completely in public places is that I am distracted by all guys around me giving loud orations to women with sick smiles. I can’t imagine that most of us guys could watch a video of someone doing that and think it was a good idea, but we still fall into it.

    What do you think’s going on there?


  3. Rod Avatar

    DG, you’re so right! Listening is *totally* seductive. I think thats what drew me so deeply to my last girlfriend. She listened to me intently (and I ‘overcommunicate’ at times, go figure) and she never gave me the impression that she didnt listen intently. Fortunately we both have terrible memories so I didnt notice if she forgot the details the next day because I would too 🙂

    I think the most annoying people are those who are excellent pretenders and who really dont hear… Sometimes you have to throw a random thought into the middle of a sentence – “So, the boss says we have to meet by four today… I went out with an acrobat last night… or we won’t have time to finish the budget before the deadline” – if they don’t catch it, you know those are really glazed eyes you’re looking at. lol.

  4. Dating Goddess Avatar

    John: Women could use the same evolutionary excuse, that we, too had to constantly look around for danger as we were out gathering. So it really doesn’t matter why your listening habits may not be up to par, the important part is that you’re aware of it and are making an effort to improve. Great!

    «I am distracted by all guys around me giving loud orations to women with sick smiles. » You need to hang around with a better crowd!

    Rod: Love the random thought idea. Very funny! So what do you do when you realize they aren’t listening? Stop talking?

    Sam: Thanks for the list of L’s.

  5. Rod Avatar

    Stop talking? Why on earth should I stop talking, just because my listener mentally left the room three hours ago? lol.

    Actually, I stop talking and ask them a question about themselves. Most people love to talk about themselves, and ‘zoning out’ is a sign that Im talking too much. The question brings them back into the conversation.

  6. Reg Adkins Avatar

    Glad to see your site is up and running again.

  7. Jeff Mac Avatar

    I’m a great listener, even when someone is incredibly boring. I’m afraid of being rude.

    But when someone is a total jerk or just talking to hear themselves talk, I’m listening mostly only because I want to make sure I get the story right when I’m making fun of the person later.

    But I am listening, so…there’s that.


  8. bookyone Avatar

    But when someone is a total jerk or just talking to hear themselves talk, I’m listening mostly only because I want to make sure I get the story right when I’m making fun of the person later.

    LMAO!!! I do this, too, though. Guilty as charged… 🙂