Around five years ago, I met one person who ended up being my close friend for a certain period of time. He was one of the people who touched my soul in a particular way and changed my life forever.
One of the biggest lessons he ever taught me was how to become a conversationalist. Spoiler alert: the key is to listen.
On the contrary of what may seem to be the logic, a true conversationalist is an expert in listening.
That’s the thing about a true listener: He was not the smoothest talker or storyteller — but every time we had a conversation, I felt the depth of our conversation that set off a ripple of warmth in days to come.
One of the most frequent questions I get along my journey is: how do you make a conversation with new people? That is why today I am thinking to pass this around.
I believe that listening as the art of conversation is the skill that will bring you far in life — personally and professionally. It is the way to open new opportunities and make new friends, connect with people in a deeper, intimate level. And God knows if we have more good listeners in this world, it will become the better place.
Listen with eyes
It sounds like an odd thing to mention. From younger age, we were told to listen with our ears. But a good listener like my friend does it differently: he listens with his eyes.
There is something particularly amiable when people listen to you with their eyes. The way they nod gently when you tell your story; The way they look deeply into your eyes; The way they follow your eyes. The way they listen to you with their eyes will feel like they look through you and listen to the things you don’t say.
Put the phone down
Every time we were set for a conversation over coffee or dinner, he’d put his phone on the table, face down.
He did not hold his phone in his hand. He did not stare at it. He did not glance at it. He did not even peek at it.
And when something really urgent came up, he’d say, “I’m sorry. I have to reply this.” After two or three minutes, he’d stop, put his phone back where it was and said, “I’m sorry. So where were we?”
That is called undivided attention.
Repeat the words (and ask actual question)
Conversation is unrehearsed. So a good listener is annoyingly good at repeating what we say and asking good questions — showing that he pays attention to what is being said. Well it does not mean he’d mirror everything I say (because that would be seriously awkward, wouldn’t it?)
So to be clear, I would give you an example.
“Yesterday I was so beat I grabbed a triple shot espresso in the middle of the night.”
A normal or not-so-good answer would sound something like this: “Oh wow. Okay.” End of conversation. Change the topic.
On the other hand, a good listener would answer with something like this: “Wow. Really? Triple shot espresso? How can you sleep after that?” Notice how a good listener will repeat what the other person is saying (without being irritating) to convey that they really are listening, and then ask follow-up questions.
These are very easy and simple to follow — and yet the repercussions could be enormous. I can assure you that becoming a good listener will let you do a lot of things, including but not limited to touching people’s life, making an impact, creating a lasting impression, nailing that job interview and making prevailing connections.
Good listeners are rare as gems.
If you master the art of listening, big chances you are mastering the art of empathy — and then, the art of conversation. It is the simplest, yet the most fundamental key element of Emotional Intelligence that will lead us as individuals to understand the experience of others as of our own. It is the basic recipe for healthy relationships — romantically or professionally.
At the end of the day, it results in better communication skills and eventually, world peace. I know it’s a long shot, but if one should start somewhere, one better start by becoming a good listener.