How to Be a Good Listener

In the Conservatory, Édouard Manet, 1879

In the Conservatory, Édouard Manet, 1879

A great article on how to listen by Molly Brodak.

Below are my actionable bullet points

  • let people feel their feels
    • don't tell the person she isn't feeling it, or make her feel ashamed
    • say "I hear you." "I bet it is hard." "That makes sense"
  • check your own emotions
    • when someone is angry and attacking you, do not engage, be the non-angry one
    • replace all the mean and hateful things coming out of their mouth with "I'm hurt! I'm hurrrt!"
    • say "I'll be up for talking another time about this if you want", don't say "when you are less angry"
  • do not give advice
    • the person already knows the answer or the best solution – or at least, has a preference
    • all you have to do is repeat what they're saying back to them
    • don't talk about your experience unless the person is specifically asking for it (see below)
  • do not relate
    • empathy is not "hey that happened to me too!" or "I also know what you're talking about – in fact I know more about it than you do!" (this is one-upping)
    • turn away from your ego and say "that must've hurt a lot!" and look at the person in the eyes
  • ask questions
    • ask good straightforward questions you think the person might like to answer, even if it's unrelated to the issue (a therapist trick to get people going)
    • ask "what happened?" "What kind of place was that?" When did you first...?" and other non yes-or-no questions
    • don't ask a lot of "why" questions (this can lead to defensiveness and quick justifications for behaviour)