What makes a great listener so magnetic? They know that the basis of any solid connection is something fundamental: safety. At its heart, safety is freedom from risk, danger, or harm. Conversational safety falls right in line, offering freedom from judgment, fault-finding, or rejection.
In conversation, validating phrases like “Of course you feel that way,” or “That makes total sense,” don’t necessarily convey agreement, but they do convey something even bigger: acceptance, which underscores the sense of safety from Habit #1.
This is the fun part of listening. Rather than nodding and waiting until it’s their turn to talk, great listeners use their spidey senses to pick up on interesting tidbits. They sit up and take notice of under-the-radar comments or casually dropped breadcrumbs.
Kindergarten teachers impart something called “whole body listening.” It goes like this: Use your eyes to watch nonverbals, your brain to think about what is being said, and your heart to feel emotions—and keep the rest of your body quiet to show respect.
Ready for ninja-level listening? Listen to what’s not being said. Maybe the speaker’s face doesn’t match their words: Perhaps they smile while talking about horrible, vulnerable things. Maybe their body language changes suddenly: Perhaps they cross their arms and shift their gaze. What to do? You already have all the tools. Follow your natural curiosity, listen with your whole body, and refrain from judging so they feel safe.
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