The 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.
Listening 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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