Let’s start at the very beginning. What are the things a great listener is doing differently than “normal” listeners?
One of the things is the focus. It seems many people are concentrated on what they will say, they forget to listen to what the other person says. Thinking during listening isn’t very helpful. Writers know how to focus. They know how to concentrate on the most important things, and they recognize a story and its thread.
But what do great listeners differently? They keep their mouth shut, they listen without judging, their entire body language is turned to the speaker, their facial expression is interested and open, only to name a few. Of course, now the important part starts, listening and taking in. By asking questions in our own words, to make sure we are interpreting the speaker’s words correctly, we are showing we absorbed the given information. Additionally, there’s one more thing: consciously memorizing.
Let’s say: we are listening to someone who tells us a story and we’d like to repeat it at some other occasion, we will memorize it. If the speaker is our friend and entrusts us with a problem or secret and asks for help and support, we will memorize it to give it some thought and come back later with a solution.
“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” Ernest Hemingway
I think it’s significant these words were spoken by a writer.
I’ve always been a very helpful person. It came naturally to me to listen to my friends’ problems, support them, help them. I was trained in memorizing what bugged them to be of the most effective help I could be. The best listener cares.
But being a writer taught me to listen to more. I’m taking in as much sound and noise as all the other people around me. But instead of blanking out some of the ‘noise’ I start concentrating on it. Occasionally I ‘threw a look’ over to the speaker who waved me over and included me into the story as an additional listener. And that’s what I do. I listen, I take in, I separate ‘nonsense’ from ‘maybe useful’ and I memorize.
I’m not only talking about ‘conversations,’ or ‘secrets’ I pick up. I’m as well listening to descriptions, of people, of landscapes, of personalities, even of cars. I never know when it comes in handy. Imagine one of my characters driving in some sports car; I might be using the description I heard of how the driving feels like.
I’m listening because I’m interested. I’m interested in people; I’m interested in helping. I will never use what I hear to expose someone. Not all experiences I hear are of interest to me. I’m writing fantasy and paranormal romance. Maybe an author of love stories or thrillers can use more of what he listens to. You might tell us below in the comments.
Sometimes Empaths can experience one of the ‘hard sides’ of listening. The emotional toll it takes on them. I was going through that before. Occasionally it still happens to me, even though with age I became more and more able to shield myself from that painful side effect of being helpful. So, good listeners might be aware that listening isn’t always about hearing secrets, problems, good stories or jokes. Sometimes listening needs guts!
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill