How Can We Become Better Listeners?

Listening to others is hard. If someone else says something you don’t agree with, the overwhelming impulse is not to listen, but to explain why you disagree.

But that impulse is not always correct. Often, you have to hear why someone believes something before you can try and change their mind. And that means it is important to listen to what they have to say, no matter how wrong-headed or incorrect you might think they are.

As a society, we are currently divided into two (or more) isolated camps. I often hear that we don’t talk to each other, but I think the problem is really that we don’t listen to each other.

Beyond our political or social climate, studies in management show that to make an effective team, the members of that team need to feel that they are heard. To get team investment in a particular strategy or course of action, all team members need to feel they have a stake in setting that course.

Even when arguing with a spouse or a romantic partner, it’s possible to hear the words, but to miss the underlying message that is causing the disagreement.

In each of these cases, listening to others is important. And yet it is a difficult skill to learn, to really listen to what others have to say. It seems like it should be easy to do — after all, we all know how much we want to be heard ourselves, so why do we find it so hard to allow others to feel like they are heard?

I think that maybe it is because we feel no one listens to us that makes us bad listeners. If I feel that the person I am talking to isn’t listening to me, then my effort is on making them hear me, not on hearing them.

So how can we break this cycle? How can we listen to someone else, and let them know that what they have to say is heard, so that they in turn can be willing to hear what we have to say? What are the tools that allow us to do that? How can we sort through the extraneous information, like insults or unnecessary detail, to really hear what is at the core of another’s message?

How can we become better listeners?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? What is necessary to change your mind? What do we have in common? How can we encourage debate?

Why Do You Live Where You Live?

Our home and our community can be a major component in the way we define ourselves. It is also an important part of the way we present ourselves to others.

There are many reasons why someone may choose a particular place to live: they may have family nearby, perhaps they moved for a job, it’s where they grew up, they went to college there and stayed after graduating, moved for a romantic partner, it was all they could afford, etc.

So the first part of this week’s question is just that: what are the circumstances that led you to be where you currently live? Do you like it? Why or why not?

There is another aspect to the question, as well. What are the things about the place where you live that you enjoy? Is it the neighbors? The quirky shops nearby? Perhaps it is surrounded by nature, or gives off a modern vibe that energizes you.

Maybe you don’t like where you live, and are hoping to move someday. What is it you don’t like? What will you be looking for? Where would be the ideal place for you?

Ultimately, we conflate who we are and where we live, for better or worse. What does your choice say about you?

Why do you live where you live?

Related questions: Why do we like what we like? Why do we put up with unhappiness? What makes a place feel like home? What makes a community?

 

Where Do Ideas Come From?

One of the most common questions authors are asked is: “Where do you get your ideas?” You may have asked this question yourself, or at least thought about it, particularly if you have spent any time staring at a blank screen.

The reason, presumably, is that the person asking the question is struggling to come up with ideas of their own. And it may seem that an author, particularly a prolific one, has no shortage of them and might have some to spare. Or at least they can draw a map for others to follow.

But is that actually the case? Does someone who has ideas for books, for songs, for paintings, for inventions, or really for anything at all, establish a connection to a world of ideas?

What, exactly, is an idea? Some might characterize an idea as an external thing, like an apple you can pick from a tree. Others might say they are simply the logical conclusions from a series of statements. Or perhaps at the confluence of two seemingly disparate fields is where ideas can be found.

Whatever you think happens to be the nature of ideas, how might you direct someone to access them more easily? Is your imagination like a muscle, and the more you use it the easier it becomes to use? If you read more books, or have conversations with strangers, or go to museums, will inspiration come to you more readily?

Where do ideas come from?

Related questions: How can we turn ideas into actions? What are the benefits of fiction? Where do shared ideas exist? When do you need inspiration?