Niklaus Gerber

September 20, 2022

Why we should talk less and listen more. My thoughts on why people don‘t listen.

Have you ever been asked what your superpower is? If you asked me, I would have multiple ones that come to mind. Listening is a skill that I did not have five years ago. Yes, I knew how to listen. But I did not hear. I am sure that the world would be a better place if people would understand how to listen. Why don’t they? Mainly because no one thought us how to listen. We lack the education that would help us to become less greedy to speak and more open to hearing.

Listening to others is something exciting to do. But many people have the misconception that to talk about themselves will give them pleasure, and listening to others is dull. They try to minimise how much they are listening and maximise how much they are talking.

If you think that the only way to understand who you are, what you feel, what you want and where you want to go next is to talk about it, you are wrong.

Yes, we all seek self clarification, but we can’t get self clarification if we are doing the talking. If we genuinely want to understand us best, we must listen to stories of others. They might be more interesting than we think.

Once we are listening to stories of others, we start understanding bits and pieces of ourselves. Why do we love to read novels? Why do we spend hours of our pressures time watching movies and listening to stories, without talking about ourselves? Because these stories help us to learn more about that world and more about ourselves.

But such stories are masterfully crafted, to keep our attention and to capture us. Writers, editors and storytellers know how to make us consume more. Stories of people around us might seem dull, messy a bland. These stories are not edited or curated.

Being a good listener is being like a good editor. You will need to learn to egg them on in sharing their story. Your goal is to make them elaborate, to go into greater detail. Try with these two magic words: “Go on” or “mmmm mmmm”. You want to urge clarification and that they go more in-depth.

  • Why did that bother you?
  • Why was that such a big thing for you?
  • You said ... and what I heard is ... Would you mind elaborating on that?

Your job as a good listener is to guide their focus so they can share the real essence of what they are saying. Lastly, you will need to learn to separate disagreement and criticism. As a good listener, you will always make them feel save and to give them the arena to share their vulnerability. Criticising will end the conversation, but disagreement is healthy.

But ultimately a good listener is quiet, attentive and focussed. So try to speak less and to listen more. You will be amazed at how it will change your relationships and how it will change you.

About Niklaus Gerber

My thoughts on leadership, life, productivity, design, and innovation.