At work, we’re taught to lead the conversation.
On social media, we shape our personal narratives.
At parties, we talk over one another. So do our politicians.
We’re not listening.
And no one is listening to us.
Despite living in a world where technology allows constant digital communication and opportunities to connect, it seems no one is really listening or even knows how. And it’s making us lonelier, more isolated, and less tolerant than ever before. A listener by trade, New York Times contributor Kate Murphy wanted to know how we got here.
In this always illuminating and often humorous deep dive, Murphy explains why we’re not listening, what it’s doing to us, and how we can reverse the trend. She makes accessible the psychology, neuroscience, and sociology of listening while also introducing us to some of the best listeners out there (including a CIA agent, focus group moderator, bartender, radio producer, and top furniture salesman). Equal parts cultural observation, scientific exploration, and rousing call to action that’s full of practical advice, You’re Not Listening is to listening what Susan Cain’s Quiet was to introversion. It’s time to stop talking and start listening.
January 7th, 2020
“When all we crave is to understand and be understood, You’re Not Listening shows us how.”
In You’re Not Listening, author Kate Murphy explains what listening truly is and isn’t, and how important it is to our connection with ourselves and one another. Not only is this book super fascinating but it is always making me rethink so many things!
In our technology-filled world, there are so many new ways for us to interact, yet we are all longing for connection more than ever before. Many of us long for the days of simplicity and meaningful face to face conversations. When we do interact, it is often rushed and interrupted by the distractions of the fast-paced world around us.
I loved the balance of informative research and relatable text that made You’re Not Listening both engaging and thought-provoking. I also appreciated that Murphy emphasizes that listening skills are learned through implementation and practice and that it is something we can always learn, no matter how old we are.
“It takes awareness, focus, and experience to unearth and understand what is really being communicated. Good listeners are not born that way, they become that way.”
From The Publisher…Q&A with Author Kate Murphy:
How did you get the idea to write this book?
As a journalist, I listen for a living, and, increasingly, I noticed that people I interviewed seemed surprised, almost taken aback, that I was actually paying attention to what they said. They began telling me profoundly personal things, wholly unrelated to the stories I was writing, as if they’d been long waiting for the opportunity. And these were very successful, well-connected people—not lacking for company, but apparently lacking for listeners. They would always thank me for listening, and also often apologize for unloading. It happened with such regularity, it made me think this was something worth investigating.
What does it mean to be a good listener?
What I found is that rather than being a checklist of dos and don’ts, listening is more a state of mind. It’s about getting yourself in a receptive mode and also developing an awareness of the kinds of things that hijack your attention, cloud your perception, and make you zone out during a conversation. And, just as importantly, listening has to do with how well you respond—the degree to which you are able to encourage and elicit the clear expression of someone else’s thoughts. It’s both an art and a skill.
How do we balance planning what to say next and listening to the person talking?
A better response will come to you when you have taken in all that the other person has to say. Then, pause if you need to after the other person concludes to think about what you want to say. And if you’re still at a loss, it’s okay to say, “I don’t know what to say.” You can also say, “I’d like to think about that,” which conveys that you’re honoring what the other person said by taking time to think about it, while, at the same time, honoring that part of you that is uncertain or anxious and needs time to process. Better that, than responding in a way that is insensitive or misses the point.
Thank you to Celadon Books for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. This means if you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission that helps support this blog at no cost to you. Thank you!