I had a talk with a friend the other day.
Actually, it wasn’t that much of a “talk.” I didn’t say a lot. He talked while I listened.
I was interested to hear what my friend had to say. I listened attentively. That’s exactly what he needed, I think — he seemed to have no issue with the fact that he was doing most of the speaking.
The few times when he paused for air, looking at me expecting feedback, I paused and took a breath. I asked an open-ended question, one that prompted him to speak again. Off he went again, me going back to listening.
I used this open-ended-question technique probably 4 times in 120 minutes. I said nothing else.
I offered no advice.
Asked no closed questions.
Withheld any judgement or opinion.
After two hours, he thanked me for the conversation and gave me a tongue-in-cheek compliment.
“You’re a great therapist.”
For Your Game
- It’s funny — frankly, the reason I didn’t say much was because my friend was speaking on some things that I didn’t feel quite qualified to advise him on. So I stayed quiet and listened. And it worked.
- This is, pretty much, what most people need when they “want to talk to you:” they need to get their thoughts out of their heads; they need to hear themselves speak what they’re thinking. They don’t need your brilliance or advice. Most people are pretty smart: once they talk things out, they can figure out what needs to be done.
- Try it out. The next time someone starts venting about their life, sharing more than you expected to hear, resist your urge to respond. Just… listen. Pay attention and just listen. When they pause for air, take a calm, deep breath while you count to five. 85% of the time, this pause is just enough for them to reload and begin speaking again.
- The other 15%? Ask an open-ended question — then be quiet again.
- You’ll be the best conversation partner they’ve had in years.