Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: listen like you mean it

Listen Like You Mean It: Final Thoughts

Listen Like You Mean It book cover

Listen Like You Mean it by Ximena Vengoechea was a strange journey. It started strong for me, started to peter out, and then picked up again at the end. The author used her experience in business, as a researcher for apps, to explain how to better listen in conversation. It makes sense. Her job was to listen to people’s first thoughts, experiences, and usage needs of an app to make it work better for them and for the company.

I suck at wrapping up what I think of a whole book. Bottom line of this one was that I liked it. I got some good bits from it. And I hope I can practice some of the things I learned in it. That’s the key. Most of it was the stuff you always hear about how to be a better listener, but if you don’t practice new ways consciously and often, you’ll only fall back into your old routines and habits.

How does one practice better conversation techniques? Especially now.

One thing I noted to myself in the margins of this book was that much of these listening skills could really be used in self-discovery and self-talk as well. How we talk to and listen to ourselves is how we look at the world around us. Can I make some useful reminders to practice these techniques on myself at home? If I can master a few of them, make them a habit when alone, maybe I can use them more readily the next time I’m out to lunch with a friend?

Halfway into the book, I started to get frustrated. Some of it seems too technical and businesslike. Maybe these would be great for someone that was around a lot of people all the time, at work or school. I don’t feel like they apply to my lifestyle. I read but glossed over much of those chapters and kept reading instead of giving up and not finishing.

I’m glad I did because the chapters on difficult discussions and resting and recharging between conversations were especially inspiring.

“We can express ourselves with humility, admitting what we do and do not know, and with curiosity, staying open to how others may receive us in conversation. We can practice patience, become aware of when our body language is telling us we are closing ourselves off, and quiet our minds when our thoughts and fears get in the way of being honest. We can make the necessary space to be ourselves, just as we do for our partners.”

Listen Like You Mean It

See? Conversation is a give and take thing. We are all in need of that intimate connection with another human or two. The first step, like everything we wish to achieve, it ours to make.

Was the book worth reading? Yes, and it would be even more so if you happen to be in a situation where you work or live closely with a lot of other people.

Pop back to my post “Listen Like You Mean It” – Another New Read, to start at the beginning of my journey and find other posts about this book.

Listening Skills to Practice

This post is what magically happens when you don’t think you have anything to say, but write anyway because you told yourself you would. It looks like I’m learning more listening skills to practice than I initially thought!

Practicing listening skills.
Photo by Bewakoof.com Official on Unsplash

This one is going to be short and sweet for two reasons. First, I’m writing to sum up one chapter simply to sum up the chapter, not because I found anything profound to share. Second, it’s Wednesday and that’s the day of the week that I spend galivanting around Southern California, so I don’t have all morning to think about this.

Chapter 4 – Clarify Your Role – From Listen Like You Mean It by Ximena Vengoechea

We all have our default listening modes. It’s usually based on your personality, your upbringing, and culture. Mine is “Identifier.” When I’m listening to you, I automatically think of ways that I am similar, how I can relate to your story, and show you by telling you a story of my own. It isn’t always what people want or need to hear and can be the spot where our relationship weakens and breaks down.

There are others and we all know them: the problem-solver, the validator, the interrupter, the diffuser, ect. Reading the descriptions reminded me of a sit-com cast. Gather together 4 to 7 stereotypical listening personalities and set them in a situation…see what happens!

With a little practice we can get closer to people and communicate better if we learn to identify the needs in a conversation and practice stepping into other listening modes from time to time. It starts with asking questions.

What?! I know!

Next time I’m in a conversation with a friend, I think I’ll listen more and talk a little less, ask a few questions, and see if I can’t determine what it is they need at the moment. I’ve already learned to step into other listening modes with close family members in the past, sometimes begrudgingly. As in, “This person can’t handle the REAL me, so I’ll pretend I’m someone else and make life easier for them. They can’t handle the truth!”

Yeah, I can be like that.

It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? There’s nothing wrong with attempting to be what another human needs because you care about them and want them to be happy. Setting aside what I need or what I feel for a bit and focusing on someone else doesn’t come naturally for me. I do it, but my initial reaction is to resent it. With time, I do start to see the benefits and change my mind, but in a face-to-face conversation, where everything is immediate, I have much harder time.

That feeling is what makes it hard for me to feel connected to other people. And it’s why I’m reading this book. So far, I think I’m really learning some new tricks.

Hmm…looks like I had more to say than I thought! Now, I’m off to head out into the world and practice some of these new listening skills. Wednesday is my weekly “going out” day. I spend it having breakfast with one friend, lunch with another, and dinner with a third. I drive from one town to another, talking on the phone or listening to podcasts. One goal I have this week is to take a few minutes between conversations to download my thoughts in my journal, meditate and relax, a way to clear my palate so to speak before I move on.

I’ll get home tonight socially satisfied and happily exhausted. “See” you all tomorrow!

Pop back to my post “Listen Like You Mean It” – Another New Read, to start at the beginning of my journey and find other posts about this book.

Patience and Trust: Not Every Thought Is Essential

I have come to the conclusion that “Listen Like You Mean It” will be best taken in smaller doses. I’ll practice some of the patience and trust she is talking about. After all, a book is just a different kind of conversation.

Patience and trust.
Listen Like You Mean It book cover on a desert background.

I typically read for about an hour before my mind starts to wander off in need of a break, but while I’m in this book, I started my wandering far earlier, about twenty minutes in. It’s not because the book is boring, far from it. It’s just so full of useful information, that I start worrying that I’ll lose some of it, so I decided to stop at thirty minutes and re-cap in my journal.

I didn’t finish reading the chapter “Stay Present” this morning, but I have mined these gems so far.

“When we name our wandering thoughts for what they are, we can choose what to do with them. Do we need these thoughts interrupting this moment? Are they serving us in conversation, or are they merely a distraction?”

Sometimes we worry that we’ll forget a thought that came up during a conversation. For me, it’s the related story that I want to tell you, that thing that I think will show you that we have something in common and connect us.

“When we can embrace an attitude of trusting what is important will remain with us – that no immediate action is necessary – we can stay calm and simply listen.”

Wouldn’t that be nice? I tend to follow (and voice) every thought that comes into my head. I only recently noticed that. Not everything my brain throws into my path is useful. Maybe I should let some go?

Oh, man, here’s another one. “…we naturally remember meaning better than details, and meaning, for our purposes, exists in empathy – in sensing the feelings, beliefs, and experiences of others. Lucky for us, the brain remembers emotions quite well – better than details.”

In a conversation with a friend, the emotion is what is important. Hearing that my friend is stressed about her husband’s health, or that he is sad over his last date, is more important than what book I read that dealt with those subjects, or the story of how I got through something similar. If I can quiet my mind and stop trying to remember those stories and just be there, I’ll feel more connected to my friends.

A couple other ideas from this chapter that I’d like to remember.

  • Set aside time immediately after a conversation (lunch date or walk with a friend), to journal about what happened, how we felt, etc. I plan on doing this, but then feel awkward not leaving the parking lot of the restaurant. Maybe I can drive away but know that I’ll be stopping at the next McD’s to take a debriefing moment or two with my journal.
  • Not every thought is essential. Let some go. The good ones will come back around!
  • Patience and trust! Give others some space to speak. A quiet pause is ok. No one will die if there is a bit of space between words. I’ve been working on at home recently. I never realized how fearful I am of quiet until now. Even the possibility of being bored is avoided and there is no space between anything I do. I started with doing nothing else while I ate my meals, and journaling for a few minutes directly after. I can do something similar while on a lunch date with friends.

I’m only fifty-five pages into this book, my friends, and I’m thrilled to have picked it up. I want to devour it, but I know I’ll just lose all the good bits that I need. Patience and trust. Quiet. Stay present.

Read my previous post about this book, Listen Like You Mean It: Another New Read.

Listen Like You Mean It: Another New Read

“Listen Like You Mean It – Reclaiming the Lost Art of True Connection” by Ximena Vengoechea is my next read and I’m very much looking forward to it. It seems to be exactly what I need right now!

"Listen Like You Mean It" book cover on a desert background.

Something I have very hard time doing is listening in a conversation. I’m a talker. I’ll talk all. Day. Long. Non-stop. In fact, just yesterday I spent literally all day talking. I talked on the phone with one person as I drove down to have breakfast with another. I talked on the way to lunch with another friend. And then on the drive home with someone else. Once I got home, I talked about the whole day with my husband and talked with my son about his day as well.

Did I run out of words? Nope.

Can you guess what my biggest complaint is about the world? My immediately family will laugh and tell you, in my voice, without hesitation, “No one is listening to me! I feel so disconnected!”

Enter, “Listen Like You Mean It.”

Will this book help me out? Thirty-five pages in and I’m thinking, yes.

My first note in this book was, “I wonder if I can make reminders for myself, like a tattoo on my hand or a button on my purse.”

Two quotes from the first pages that have shown me that I’m on the right track:

“When we are on autopilot, we hear enough of what the other person is saying to hold a conversation, get our work done, keep in touch with our friends, and stay polite with our neighbors and shopkeepers.

…we tend to react based on how we wish to be treated, rather than respond to what our conversation partner is actually saying or in need of.”

“We may, for instance, assume that others relate to things in the same way we do, our of a desire to bond over a “shared” experience (You had a pet as child? Me too. It was great, right?).”

That’s me. I know I’m doing it and I’m believe that I’m doing it to show you that I’m just like you. We have something in common! But not everyone is telling their story to connect that way. They may feel upstaged or not heard.

Another thing I don’t do well is ask questions and get people to explain what they mean or how they feel. And that is a direct result of my surface listening. I’m only listening enough to connect what you’re saying to something I have done or felt, then getting ready to tell my side.

The very thing that I do to connect with others is the thing that makes most people feel unheard and discouraged from adding to the conversation. I’m creating my own feedback loop!

Listen Like You Mean It is going to be a game-changer for sure…if I can only remember to implement what I’m learning!

If you’d like to read along with me, go get the book at Thriftbooks.com and leave me a comment. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Read more posts about this book!
Patience and Trust: Not Every Thought Is Essential
Listening Skills to Practice
Final Thoughts

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