The Art of Listening

Most people are not proficient at the art of listening. It requires practice and dedication.

"Will the rain stop? Soon? Ever?" Yes, I assure Griffin, but for now you pee in the rain. Sorry...

David Weedmark, author of The Tanglewood Murders recently opined on the global listening deficit. And like so much that germinates from his clever mind, his observation that the population at large isn’t very skilled at listening and his “5 Keys to the Art of Listening” are worth reading, re-reading and then passing along to the folks you’d like to listen.

It reminded me of something I used to tell my students. The first step in storytelling is listening. And the second and the third.

To tell stories, you must listen to the world around you. Not just the stories written, told, illustrated by others. There’s a deeper listening that precedes good storytelling, an intentional receptivity to the world around us.

That cracked manhole cover has a story. That twisted walnut tree has a story. That distant dog bark carried on the wind, and the smell of burning leaves, and the scar across you left pinky knuckle. All have stories.

Can you hear them? If you listen, really listen, you’ll begin to hear the stories underneath. And then you can begin to pick and choose the ones you like, the ones you understand, the ones your audience most desire and need.

Weedmark’s guidelines are helpful:

  1. Listen actively. Look in the person’s eyes, watch their mouth. Lean forward.
  2. Don’t think about talking. Think about what the other person is saying.
  3. Ask questions. When the other person has finished… [speaking] ask a question…
  4. Don’t fake it. [Your] time is just too valuable.
  5. Ask better questions. Take them deeper into their own thoughts and feelings by asking them why they did what they did and how they got to where they are.

(via David Weedmark)

Do you already practice the art of listening? I’ve learned that people appreciate good listeners. They open up, share more, pour more passion, more life into their communication. And you’re the winner. Better listeners receive better stories. Weedmark wraps up his post by reminding us that there’s always room to improve the art of listening: “Let people know you want to listen. Let them know you care.” And you’ll be the richer for it!