Are You Listening?

by Dianna Brodine, managing editor, Plastics Business

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
– Stephen R. Covey

I am definitely guilty of listening to respond. I do it in my personal life, when my teenaged daughters are talking constantly to catch me up on who is dating who, what happened at tennis practice or why I should let them paint their own bedrooms. I sometimes find myself tuning in just enough to catch the words that indicate I’m supposed to jump in and react to whatever story they’ve been telling. At work, I keep an ear on the conversations happening around me so I can give my opinion (whether asked for or not!), but it’s rarely with the intention of pure learning.

I’m attempting to mend my ways, so this issue’s Booklist takes a look at the art of listening. Perhaps we could all practice by listening to the audiobook versions of these recommendations?

book-cover-ihearyouI Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships

Author: Michael S. Sorensen
Released: June 19, 2017

In this three-hour, conversational read, you’ll discover the whats, whys and hows of one of the most valuable (yet surprisingly little-known) communication skills – validation. Whether you’re looking to improve your relationship with your spouse, navigate difficult conversations at work or connect on a deeper level with friends and family, this book delivers simple, practical, proven techniques for improving any relationship in your life. Mastery of this simple skill will enable you to:

  • Calm (and sometimes even eliminate) the concerns, fears and uncertainties of others
  • Quickly resolve, or even prevent, arguments
  • Help others become open to your point of view
  • Give advice and feedback that sticks
  • Provide support and encouragement to others, even when you don’t know how to “fix” the problem

In short: This skill is powerful. Give the principles and practices in this book a chance and you’ll be amazed at the difference they can make.

book-cover-notlisteningYou’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters

Author: Kate Murphy
Released: Jan. 7, 2020

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). You’re Not Listening is equal parts cultural observation, scientific exploration and rousing call to action that’s full of practical advice.

book-cover-lostartconversationThe Lost Art of Good Conversation: A Mindful Way to Connect with Others and Enrich Everyday Life

Author: Sakyong Mipham
Released: Oct. 17, 2017

Cutting through all the white noise, chatter and superficiality our cellphones and social media cause, one of Tibet’s highest and most respected spiritual leaders offers simple and practical advice to help us increase our attention spans, become better listeners and strive to appreciate the people around us.

In a world of iPhones and connectivity to social media and email, we are all in constant connection with one another. Then why are so many people feeling burned out, distant from colleagues and abandoned by family and friends? In this new book from the bestselling author of Running with the Mind of Meditation, the Sakyong uses the basic principles of the Shambhala tradition – meditation and a sincere belief in the inherent wisdom, compassion and courage of all beings – to help readers to listen and speak more mindfully with loved ones, co-workers, strangers and even ourselves.

Sakyong Mipham provides practical tips on how to be more present in your day-to-day life, helping us to communicate in ways that elevate the dignity of everyone involved. Great for families, employees and employers and everyone who spends too much time on Facebook, Instagram, and feels “disconnected” in our “connected” world, Good Conversation is a journey back to basics.

book-cover-ifiunderstoodyouIf I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating

Author: Alan Alda
Released: June 6, 2017

Alan Alda has been on a decades-long journey to discover new ways to help people communicate and relate to one another more effectively. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? is the warm, witty and informative chronicle of how Alda found inspiration in everything from cutting-edge science to classic acting methods. His search began when he was host of PBS’s Scientific American Frontiers, where he interviewed thousands of scientists and developed a knack for helping them communicate complex ideas in ways a wide audience could understand – and Alda wondered if those techniques held a clue to better communication for the rest of us.

In his wry and wise voice, Alda reflects on moments of miscommunication in his own life, when an absence of understanding resulted in problems both big and small. He guides us through his discoveries, showing how communication can be improved through learning to relate to the other person: listening with our eyes, looking for clues in another’s face, using the power of a compelling story, avoiding jargon and reading another person so well that you become “in sync” with them. Alda describes ways we can build empathy, nurture our innate mind-reading abilities and improve the way we relate and talk with others in every aspect of our lives – with our friends, in business settings and beyond.