A listening conversation is good for your health, wellbeing and sense of identity. It is vital for social cohesion and when you are listening well you are doing something useful for the people you listen to.

I heard someone say, “People are so afraid of talking, really talking to each other”. It’s a view for which I have some sympathy. Most of us talk all the time but say very little.

For general consumption this may be OK; we have neither the time nor the inclination to involve ourselves in a deep and meaningful listening conversation at every turn. Nor would it be appropriate to overshare personal details and viewpoints. There has to be some connection with others though, it’s essential for our sense of identity, wellbeing, and social cohesion.

Connecting with others via purposeful and fulfilling listening conversation is enlivening and intellectually stimulating, and it helps participants’ cognitive functioning too. Quite literally, a meaningful conversation where you feel connected to another helps you think better.

How to connect

You know you are really having a connected conversation when, as I say, ‘the room disappears’; you become so focused on the conversation that you are only peripherally aware of your surroundings.

Talking about ourselves isn’t taboo. It doesn’t have to be ‘me-me-me. We may be living in a culture that idolises and aspires to celebrity, against a backdrop of social media twittering, but that’s just wallpaper (maybe just papering over the cracks in some cases).

Real people (men and women) do real conversation. Real conversations involve people talking about important stuff, learning about each other, sharing ideas, and above all, listening. One of the most useful things you can do for another person, I believe, is to really listen and ask them intelligent, probing questions. Ideally, these should take them down a track they haven’t been down before.

By the way, a good question goes on working long after you have asked it, so it shouldn’t necessarily require an answer.

I’ve been rooting around in the archives recently, and I’ve re-jigged my listening download. I will locate the one on questions and make that available too.

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