Almost every communication tutorial will tell you to speak less, and listen more. Be a good listener, they say.
So you try shutting up.
And try to listen. You try to be a good listener.
Only to be distracted by your brain that starts fidgeting, trying to instantly judge every sentence, trying to form responses to every argument made, waiting impatiently for its turn to finally speak; to finally tell the other speaker how she’s wrong, how you don’t agree to her opinions/observations, or how you agree completely to her perspective but have a few more intelligent points to add to her statements.
What’s wrong? This is supposed to be a valuable life hack, then why is your brain acting weird?
The problem is our brain is evolutionarily wired to speak more instead of listening. It’s called signalling. By speaking they can advertise (signal) their knowledge, their best traits to attract mates, friends and allies.
Our brain is wired for a society of hunter-gatherers where our survival depended on attracting mates, friends or allies.
It’s almost counter-intuitive to not listen to someone when he/she’s is providing free useful information by speaking. But our brains don’t care, it wants to speak, double-up, add more information, sound smart, disagree/agree, feel important; all the while trying to earn brownie points from the other person.
If that is so, then how to be a good listener?🤔
It takes regular practice, but it’s completely possible to overpower this stupid impulse of our brain. Our intention should be to listen without judgement.
And the trick is simple too- just delay judgement.
So every time someone speaks:
- Prepare your brain, tell yourself, “Okay, I’m going to give this person my complete undivided attention.”
- Then tell yourself, “I am not going to judge while he/she’s still speaking. I will judge the information, only when the speech is over”
Delaying judgement gives us an opportunity to:
- Actually listen and soak in the information provided by the speaker, without judgement. Consider is as raw data. Doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree, doesn’t matter if it fits with your world view, doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong.
- It gives us an opportunity to better ourselves. Because we process the raw data only when the speech is over, we get time to introspect, question our own world view, judge the raw data, test it against first principles, weight it against your ethics and values.
- After running the raw data through your value/knowledge/opinion/worldview system, you’re now free to accept it, reject it, partly agree to it, change your perspective to accommodate it and so on.
Just by delaying judgement, we reap all the benefits of being a good listener.
Shut your mouth to listen.
Shut your judgement to be a good listener.
Cover photo by Adam Solomon