The Power of Listening

A friend of the author’s was going to a party where he would be meeting his wife’s coworkers from her new job for the first time. He felt anxious as the time for the party grew near, and wondered whether they would like him or not. He rehearsed various scenarios in his mind in which he tried in different ways to impress them. He grew more and more tense.

But on the way to the party, the man came up with a radically different approach, one which caused all of his anxiety to melt completely away. Find out what he decided to do, and how it all turned out, in this true story that could serve as inspiration for us all.

He decided that, instead of trying to impress anyone, he would spend the evening simply listening to them and summarizing what they had just said. At the party, he spent the evening listening carefully to everyone, responding with phrases like, “I understand what you’re saying, you feel strongly that. . .” and “Let me see if I understand what you mean. . .” He also avoided voicing his own opinions, even though at times it meant biting his tongue to keep from doing so.

To his amazement, he discovered that no one noticed or remarked on the fact that he was just listening. Each person he talked to during the evening seemed content to be listened to without interruption. On the way home, his wife (whom he had not told about the experiment) told him that a number of people had made a point of telling her what a remarkable person he was. The word “charismatic” was used by one person to describe him, while another said he was one of the most “articulate” people she had ever met.

Could it be that charisma and brilliance have as much to do with how we listen as what we say? Imagine a world where people actually listen to one another, rather than just waiting for the other people to stop talking so they can give their opinion.

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