On Being a Good Listener

All this talk about royalty reminded me of the time I met William and Harry some years ago. They were patrons of a charity we’d set up and they attended a reception in London laid on to raise its profile and hopefully get some money coming in. There were probably eighty of us by the time the princes arrived with their entourage. What impressed me was the way they worked the room; they engaged with everyone there including yours truly. It wasn’t just, ‘hello, so nice to meet you. Have you come far?’ No, they had something intelligent to say to every person they met. Harry wanted me to tell him what work the charity is doing to manage energy costs, which were going through the roof at the time. I stumbled through a reply which probably convinced no one.

It got me thinking. If I go to a party (you don’t ever go to parties – Anita), or a reception, (you don’t go to receptions either – Anita again), I’m very much a ‘hello, nice to meet you. Have you come far? sort of person. Bit sad really. So, in the interests of self development, it never being too late even at my great age, for a bit of self improvement, I’ve researched how we introverts can be just a little less predictable and boring when we find ourselves talking to strangers.

I’ve come up with 5 questions you can use to get some great conversations underway. First though some general pointers: Don’t drag on; be brief and to the point. Avoid controversial topics at least until you know who you’re talking to. Take care and stay positive. Show some emotion, laugh at their jokes, be a little animated. Not to excess of course, or your listener might start anxiously looking around to see where your carer might be, or how they can escape this madman. Be aware of your body language, and theirs. If they are looking over your shoulder to see if there’s someone more interesting they can talk to, you’ll soon pick this up. And don’t you dare do that. Giving the person you are talking to your whole attention will pay enormous dividends. Finally approach every conversation with fresh eyes and no preconceptions.

As I’ve said already, it all starts with asking the right questions. Kill the small talk; forget, ‘what do you do?’ And ‘have you come far?’ 

Ask instead, ‘What’s your story?’ Once they’ve got over the shock, this sort of open ended question could take you in any direction imaginable. Their journey, their dreams, their goals.

‘What makes you smile, when you get up in the morning?’ 

’Tell me what excites you right now?’ Of course this could get you straight into some controversial areas, but hey, you didn’t initiate the subject. Might be Chelsea winning a match, or they’re in the middle of writing a book, who knows?

’Tell me something that’s important in your life right now.’ This can give you some great connecting points. 

Notice the pattern. You have taken the initiative; it’s not all about you. It’s about them, and most people love an opportunity to tell you who they are. The problem you will have is ending the conversation so that someone else can have the opportunity to savour your brilliant repartee.

William and Harry were doing this sort of thing day by day and they got very good at it. With practise you can be the same; the most interesting person in the room is the one who is interested in everyone else, and who knows how to listen.

You’ll have your own conversation starters. I’d be interested to hear them. 

Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

A prayer

Into this day, help me to bring love, and joy, and peace into someone’s life

Into this day help me to bring a listening ear into someone’s life

Into this day let the rhythm of my life enable others to see you reflected in all my actions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Built with WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: