Listen, The Secret to Your Success Is...
How can being a good listener help you be happier, make others happy, maybe even contribute to world peace?
Listening Well Can Make You Happier
Psychologists have long understood that people are terrible at predicting what will make them happy. If you say, “I will be happy if I … win the lottery, become famous, buy a fancy car”. Even if you achieve that goal, when you look back to assess, most people find they are not as happy as they thought they would be.
However, a study in 2009 out of Harvard University found that there is a way to predict one’s happiness. They set up an experiment with dating:
- One group of women looked at pictures of men, and read their bios, and predicted how happy they would be to date that person. This reflects how most online dating apps work.
- The other group of women talked with other women who had already gone on a date with that man, and then they predicted how satisfied they would feel about their date.
Next, both groups went out on a date with the men.
It turned out that the women who talked with other women were more accurate in their prediction of how enjoyable they actually found those dates.
So there’s a real value to listen closely to someone who’s already been through something that you aspire to.
That’s the first way that listening is useful – it helps you become happier by virtue of learning something valuable.
Listening to Others Makes Them Happier
“When in conversation, do you listen, or do you just wait to talk?”
-- Mia Wallace to Vincent Vega, Pulp Fiction
What makes people happy? Feeling connected. And what makes people feel connected? Feeling like they are being heard.
Last month I went to a party at my friend Rebecca’s house. I was late, so the party was in full swing when I arrived. I had brought a gift, a book, and as I handed it to Rebecca I explained why I had chosen it for her and how I had heard about it. She was in the midst of the party and talking with other people, also it was kind of noisy, so I didn’t expect she had caught all the details I mentioned.
However I was pleasantly surprised to later receive a thank you card from her in which she reiterated my points. She had been listening! Intently, and had remembered what I had said. I was greatly impressed.
Now Rebecca is a hospital chaplain so she has had a lot of experience listening closely. I have other friends who are also counselors and psychiatrists who are great listeners, and I can tell you it is a real treat to be paid attention to, and listened to closely.
What are some ways to show you are listening?
- Not interrupting
- Not checking your phone
- Tamping down the inner monologue
I feel it so rare to have someone focused on you and what you are saying.
Really, world peace?
Now I want to talk about how listening skills can foster peace. What is the key to personal peace? Arguably, having your needs met and feeling balanced. That peaceful, easy feeling then spreads to others -- your community and your world.
When people feel their needs are being met, they stop fighting. Having a voice is a human need, and listening to others is key to understanding the viewpoints of others.
"Understanding comes through communication, and through understanding we find the way to peace.”
– Ralph Smedley, Toastmasters founder
Listening well is an overlooked skill, but it’s an important one, maybe the most important next to gratitude.
There are so many opportunities to practice being a great listener. It can make you happy, it can make others happy, and it can make the world a better place.
Thank you for listening.