Listening is all the rage these days, but what to do if it’s just not your strong suit?
Here are the top tips compiled by extroverted experts for that can save you from developing a reputation as a terrible listener – without having to do any actual listening:
1) Use affirming words and gestures.
Be proactive and act as if you’re an excellent listener. Nod vehemently (but not too often, which can create suspicion). And when faced with one of those inevitable awkward silences that could give away that you haven't been paying attention, utilize the single most powerful affirming phrase: “I hear you!" - and repeat frequently. This phrase serves to reassure the other person that not only have you been listening, but it’s important to you for them to know that you’ve been listening (because you care). And note, too, that when used as an interjection, this highly versatile expression works brilliantly to cut off someone who's been prattling on endlessly.
2) Harness the power of flattery.
Flattery - we all love it! And nothing beats the out-of-context compliment for distracting from the fact that you haven’t absorbed a word of what your conversational partner has been saying. A statement to the effect of "I’m sorry, but I just had to comment on your necklace/tie/belt buckle/hair/jacket – it’s incredible!” makes the other person feel amazing, and shifts the balance of conversational power, allowing you to regain emotional control.
3) The silver bullet conversational cover-up: “You said it!"
This failsafe phrase never fails to satisfy – how could it? It implies agreement and endorsement, and it’s completely truthful. After all, the person with whom you’ve been conversing did say something – and you're not claiming to know what it was. This handy catch-phrase has the additional benefit of promoting conversational efficiency, as it implies that there's no further need for discussion of whatever it was that other person was going on about.
4) Change the subject.
Change is good, and it’s allowed in conversation! By overtly leading with, “Not to change the subject, but …” you have deftly foreclosed discussion of whatever it was your conversational partner was discussing, while shifting the topic to one in which you’re actually interested. Nice work!
5) Let go of FOMO – Fear of Missing Out.
With all the emphasis these days on the importance of listening (blah, blah, blah), people who are terrible listeners can end up feeling terrible about themselves. Who needs that? Remember, there’s a reason you stopped listening: a lot or even MOST of what people say is booooring! So don’t beat yourself up over what you might've been missing by not listening. Chances are it was just a load of nonsense anyway.
The bottom line: listening or not, you have just as much right to enjoy connecting with other people as someone who actually cares about what they’re saying. Frequent use of these terrible-listening tips will effectively lubricate your conversations, making them more rewarding for everyone involved – including, most especially, you.