Being a listener

It feels different to be a true listener. You fall into a different brain state—calmer, because you have no stray thoughts blooming in your head—but intensely alert to what the other person is saying. You lose track of time because you are actively following the point the other person has brought up, trying to comprehend what she means and if it relates to other points she’s brought up. Your brain may jump to conclusions, but you’re continually recognizing when that happens, letting it go, and getting a better grip on what the speaker really intends to communicate.

~ Indi Young from,

This agrees with my experience conducting conversations for podcasts. I’ve spent hundreds of hours intentionally practicing listening. While I have learned a lot of different things in the process, what I have learned about listening has proven by far the most valuable. Because learning how to listen changes every interaction with every person.

Occasionally I wonder if I can distill some small set of actionable advice from my experiences. I haven’t been able to yet, but I continue tinkering and reviewing work. It’s wonderful to have a great conversation, but when it’s recorded and you can return later to review what you said, and what you thought you heard, that’s mind-altering. While I don’t yet have that small set of actionable advice, this Open + Curious project has sprung from my exploration of the art of conversation as a way to begin sharing.

I sometimes lead sessions practicing conversation, described as:

We talk with others every day, but how often do we intentionally practice the art of conversation? In a format similar to speed-dating, we’ll have a short instruction segment, then pair up and practice, regroup, discuss what we’ve learned, go deeper, and then repeat the cycle. This is a chill session with actionable take-aways and lots of practice time. We’ll exercise our brains, expand our minds, and flex our social skills.

Participants will discover new ways to approach, and to improve, their own conversations. Context, intention, questions, beginnings, endings, depth, balance, purpose, … there’s a dizzying array of possibilities! In this session we’ll pick apart the complexity, and participants will practice individual facets of conversation.

I continue to have my own great conversations which lead me to insights. But in this publication, I also want to begin highlighting excellent written works that touch on the art of conversation.


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