I recently picked up a friend at the airport, and he enthusiastically told me, “I just met the nicest woman on the planet on my plane!”
“Awesome,” I responded. “What was her name?”
“You know, I’m not sure,” he told me.
“Ok, then,” I continued. “What did she do for a living?”
“I don’t recall,” my friend replied.
I continued to ask questions about this mystery “nicest woman on the planet” until my friend admitted, “Actually, I guess I did most of the talking. Ok, maybe I did just about all of the talking.”
We humans love to talk. Just about all of us would rather talk about ourselves than listen in any given one-on-one social situation. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just is what it is.
Since humans love to talk, if you can focus on listening, truly listening attentively to the person you’re with, that person will adore you.
Even if you don’t say a thing, if you continue to acknowledge that you’re listening, using eye contact and body language and the occasional “Uh-huh” and “I know,” that person will adore you.
The secret to getting people to adore you is to shut up and listen.
As simple as this may sound, it’s true. Now, there is one major caveat to this: You can’t listen because it’s a parlor trick you learned from some idiot influencer on LinkedIn. You can’t sit there waiting to talk. You have to actually listen authentically and care authentically about what the person is talking to you about it. You have to really genuinely focus and really genuinely care. But then, if you do, this will work- every time.
Just resist the temptation to talk about yourself—even if you get asked questions, deflect or answer quickly and then give that person an immediate opportunity to talk again.
The best way to practice active listening is to practice silence, as difficult as this may be. I love public speaking, private speaking, and, like most humans, talking about myself—so this is a challenge for me. But the few times I’ve done it, it’s been deeply impactful.
Two years ago, I announced before a Likeable senior management meeting that I wouldn’t be speaking at that meeting, no matter what. It was shocking at first to some (including me!) but in just one hour I gained more insight into our business and its senior executives than I had in weeks. And they felt more empowered and respected than ever!
Last week, I went on a leadership retreat with several close entrepreneur friends. Our leader suggested we have a “silent breakfast,” and I liked it so much, I decided to remain silent for several hours afterwards. Not only was I way more attuned to the people and environment around me, I was more appreciated! One friend said to me, (half-jokingly?), “You know, Dave, I really like you a lot more when you’re silent than when you’re talking!”
Listening is the key skill in social media, in business, in relationships, in likeability, and in life. If you don’t believe me, I urge you to practice—just give it a try, even for one conversation—and respond in the annotations with your experience. I’ll be listening.