So, my friend here, Dale Carnegie, once told me that: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you would in two years by trying to make other people become interested in you.”
I’ve been experimenting on this phrase in the past year and I gotta say it’s rewarding on both sides: for you as a listener and for the other person as a speaker. We’ll focus on this idea later in the article.
Brian Tracy, the famous motivational speaker, says that there are three major advantages for becoming a good listener.
1. Listening builds trust because when you listen to someone, that person will start having a bigger trust in you. When you listen carefully and actively, the other person feels that what they have to say is important to you. This builds respect on your side.
One mistake that is very often made is that:
Many people move around or do something else or look in other directions when you are talking. Some of them say: “Keep going. I’m listening. It doesn’t mean that I don’t pay attention if I’m not looking at you.”
That’s something that you should never ever do. It’s a lack of respect and it shows that you are not interested since your attention is divided in more than one direction.
Besides, you cannot receive the full message encoded in the mimics and in the body language. You can’t even receive the entire message that is orally transmitted.
So, look at the person who talks.
Zig Ziglar, another famous motivational speaker, said that you should look the speaker in the eyes (as it creates a powerful bond between the two of you) as long as your culture doesn’t see something bad in looking straight into the other person’s eyes.
2. Brian Tracy also says that good listening builds self-respect because when you carefully listen to someone, the self-respect of that person increases. The same happens when someone else listens to you because you feel valued and important.
3. Listening builds self-discipline. Unless you have really tried being a good listener, you cannot be aware of the huge self-control required for this act.
First, you have to listen without interrupting (which is very tempting). Then you have to focus on what the other person is saying so that you are able to fully understand their message. Don’t let your mind get distracted by external factors.
Brian Tracy also says that whenever you are in conversation with another person, the spotlights are on the person who talks, while the other person is in the shadow. So, to win friends you have to let the spotlights be on the other person more than they are on you.
Whenever you interrupt someone’s speech, you could disrupt the continuum of their ideas. They could lose some of them or if they are very interested in what they are saying, they won’t even pay attention to your reason for interruption and they’ll keep going with their ideas as soon as they are given the chance to talk.
Dale Carnegie said that you have to encourage the other person to speak openly about his interests and you should do so by asking questions which ultimately builds bridges of understanding.
When you listen to someone, the most important aspect of the human character is at stake. It is the ego and the need of feeling appreciated of the person who is talking.
One of the great listeners of all times was Sigmund Freud (could that be the reason for which he accomplished so much in the field of psychology?). A person who met him said that he never experienced such a concentrated attention and that Freud was a man with mild and genial eyes, with a voice that was low and kind. Freud’s gestures were few, the attention he gave to the person speaking and the appreciation for what was said was extraordinary.
The world is in such a great need of good listeners because all of us, due to our egos and our needs for appreciation, strive to talk at all times and listen as little as possible.
The good listener becomes a wise person, earns the respect of others and makes a lot of true friends. And most importantly (as many would think), the good listener will not have to worry about money and making for the day as the door of opportunities will always be wide opened to them.
I think that to be a good listener there are only two criteria to satisfy and the first one may be extremely difficult to stick to (which is why there are so few good listeners).
1. Letting go of your ego.
To be a good listener you have to let go of your ego because this way you will never feel the need to talk and to be appreciated. Our egos are rooted into the depths of our souls and you have to break a lot of barriers in removing their power.
Most of us, in conversations, only want the others to finish what they have to say so that we can express our own opinions. If you ask me, this is EGO and it is expressed through the need of validation.
If you minimize your EGO, you will never need external validation for your thoughts and for your decisions. And to be honest, the best decisions that I’ve ever taken in my life had no external influence. They never got out of my body and my mind.
This doesn’t mean that sometimes it’s not good to have someone else’s objective opinion on something.
2. The second aspect stands in the details of being a good listener. And these can only be optimized through experience.
– listen with all your mind, heart and body
– never interrupt the other person
– look at the other person when he/she is talking
– try to drive conclusions, but never give advices without being asked (sometimes people just want to be listened – especially women)
– ask questions whenever you are given the occasion to
– encourage the person to talk about their wants and interests
– make sure you’re getting his/her body and facial messages, besides the verbal ones because non-verbal communication makes up for more than 70-80% of all communication.
I personally think that you should start by meeting the second criteria because it would be easier to nail down your EGO this way. As long as you follow the details from #2 above, you will increase your self-respect and the respect of others which is why you will feel less likely the need to be appreciated.
In the beginning of the article I was saying that being a good listener is good for both you and the one who speaks. But come to think of it, I consider that being a good listener has more advantages for you than for the others.
Think about all the information that you get from the speaker. Think about the fact that it’s all raw data from other people’s mind. You could learn new things, new crafts (for free), you could start being able to see things from different perspectives (which makes you wiser) and you could also learn to better understand yourself, you micro- and macro-universe.
Since you have friends who you listen a lot to, you will be able to see the bigger picture in terms of relationships with each other and with respect to what each one of them thinks about the rest.
You become so powerful that you can’t imagine.
But be aware: never use the information you have for bad purposes, never tell the secrets of one person to others, and only use the information you get in an objective way. If that information is important, try verifying it from other sources before using it in other contexts.
I’m extremely positive that if you use all these guidelines, you will become a better listener, a better person, and a much happier one. You’ll increase your self-respect and the respect that other people have for you.
Of course, it may not be so easy because you have to pass over the most difficult barrier ever, your EGO. It takes time and not many people can succeed. But if you do, the reward and the satisfaction are immense.
I wanna conclude with Carnegie’s words that sound into my mind so very often:
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you would in two years by trying to get other people become interested in you.”
I want to help you in your journey to become a better self and I’d like to hear your comments and opinions with respect to what I’ve said here. You can do it in either of the comment sections bellow.
Brian Tracy (2012). The Power of Self-Confidence: Become Unstoppable, Irresistible, and Unafraid in Every Area of Your Life.
Dale Carnegie (1936). How to Win Friends and Influence People.