How to be a good listener

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Good listening skills are a must in any relationship. But what does being a good listener look like in real life?

Here are some simple tips to boost your listening game.

What do you want?

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What do you want? Seems like an easy enough question.

We want a new job or that great new boat we saw last weekend. But look past the stuff.

What do you really want?

I heard author Bob Goff speak a few weeks ago, and he asked the audience this question with effervescent conviction (to be fair, though, that’s kind of his thing). If you’re familiar with Bob, you’ll know he’s got a lock on what he wants.

His question threw me as I grabbed the arm of the person next to me and said to them, “I don’t know! I don’t think I know what I want!” 😱

This is a terrific way to free up a seat next to you. More armrest for me, just sayin.

“What do you really want” is a hard question if you haven’t really thought about what’s important to you. It’s still a hard question if you have thought about it.

When you know what you value in life you work hard to make reality match your vision.

Then Bob threw me over the edge with this one:

Decide what you want, then point the rest of your life, all the other stuff, toward that.

Genius!

Simplicity.

I had the whole seating section to myself at this point.

We don’t always do what we really want.

We can’t always articulate what we want in a way that drives us to make real changes. So when our lives get out of balance, our ability to tolerate incongruity overwhelms us.

It’s frustrating.

But if you let it, this discomfort can at least get you going.

You may have heard the story of the old dog and the farmer. It’s been rewritten more than a few times. This version comes from author Amanda Palmer.

“A farmer is sitting on his porch in a chair, hanging out.
A friend walks up to the porch to say hello, and hears an awful yelping, squealing sound coming from inside the house.
“What’s that terrifyin’ sound?” asks the friend.
“It’s my dog,” said the farmer. “He’s sittin’ on a nail.”
“Why doesn’t he just sit up and get off it?” asks the friend.
The farmer deliberates on this and replies:
“Doesn’t hurt enough yet.”

Getting up and moving your life toward your vision takes the discomfort out of focus and lets you lock in on what you need to do to change your life.

So how do you know what you want?

For starters, what you want isn’t what you don’t want.

Don’t define your values in terms of “A life where I don’t have to…

The goal is to move toward a tangible vision of what you want. No one ever got where they wanted to go by heading somewhere they didn’t want to go. Well, maybe Christopher Columbus, but whatever…

And your values are about you. Not what you’d like to see other people do.

A life where my brother…” No. Mind your own business. Your brother can tussle with his own values. This is about you.

Frame your values in ways that help you discover that picture of your life you’ve seen in your head since you were eight.

Picture it

This is the best part. Use all of your six senses (I’m assuming , of course, you can see dead people) to visualize yourself living and moving inside that picture.

Who do you talk to? Where do you go?

What does it feel like when you win at that thing? Who’s with you when you do?

What do you look like? What are you wearing (not in a creepy way)?

This is the movie version of your life where no one can tell you, “You can’t have that.”

Maybe you want your life to center on community, creativity, joy, spirituality, or simplicity. Or all of them.

There are no qualifiers or prerequisites. You get it all.

There’s sweet data there for you. Go get it.

Are you getting what you want?