In his book The Laws of Human Nature
, author Robert Greene acknowledges that it’s hard to listen deeply to others during a conversation because each of us is naturally more interested in our own experiences, feelings, and thoughts.
For Greene, the key to silencing your own internal monologue during a conversation is to become actively curious about other person.
You already know your own thoughts all too well, and you’re unlikely to surprise yourself. But each person you encounter is like an undiscovered country full of surprises: “Imagine for a moment that you could step inside people’s minds and what an amazing journey that could be.”
People who seem dull or quiet have strange inner lives for you to explore. Even those you consider foolish can provide opportunities to better understand the origins of their flaws.
Greene offers a few tips to make the most of your conversational journey:
1. Look for nonverbal cues: Instead of simply barraging the other person with questions to learn more about them, pay attention to which topics make their eyes light up. You should then guide the conversation in that direction: “Almost everyone likes to talk about their childhood, their family, the ins and outs of their work, or some cause that is dear to them.“
2. Internalize and mirror their interests: The best way to signal to the other person that you’re listening deeply is to occasionally say something they have said, but in your own words and filtered through your experiences.
As Greene points out, your goal in listening deeply is to allow the other person to come away from the conversation feeling better about themselves.
You’ve made them the star of the show, and drawn out the wittier, more fun-loving side of their personality: “They will love you for this and will look forward to the next encounter.”