Do you have a minute?
Good. I need someone who will listen.
Go ahead. I’m listening.
Listening isn’t something inborn and innate to everyone. It’s a skill—a gift—that few have, and those who have it make it known early on. I like to believe that I’m one of the few to whom listening is something that comes naturally—I don’t have to try to listen and remember things. It just happens.
Everyone longs for something that makes them different. And my ears and memory are what set me apart from other people. In 16 years, I’ve never come across someone who’s like me—someone who likes listening to people. When you try not to listen, it feels like something is missing; like you’re not as alive as you should be. Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters said it best: it’s like you’re just another brick in the wall.
As with everything in life, being a good listener is not always an advantage. It has its drawbacks—always nodding, remembering things that no normal person should remember. But, it also has things that make it rewarding and bearable. My dividend is mostly selfish. The more I listen to people, and the more I find that paying attention to minute details makes life more interesting. Everyone has a story. And when given the chance, most people are willing spill their guts. The Barista at Starbucks always has something to say. And so does the hall monitor who wants to be in high school again.
Though not everyone is born with the skill of listening, there are little things that can make all the difference. If done well, you can trick someone into thinking you’re a listening savant. Keep in mind that everyone wants to feel special—to feel like they matter. A glazed look on your face is never a predicator of a welcome conversation. Simple things, like leaning toward the person, keeping eye contact and looking like you’re hanging on every spoken word can change a conversation from a bland exchange of words, into a lively story. Open your ears, and life will never sound the same.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.