Listen Like You Mean It Book Summary - Listen Like You Mean It Book explained in key points
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Listen Like You Mean It summary

Ximena Vengoechea

Reclaiming the Lost Art of True Connection

4.4 (332 ratings)
24 mins
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    Listen Like You Mean It
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    Approach conversations with the intention of really focusing on and engaging with your partner.

    A young researcher, Eve, and her mentor, Mia, were exploring the issue of cyberbullying on their company’s platform. That process involved interviewing celebrities and others who regularly become the targets of abusive comments online.

    Eve and Mia had gotten to their third interviewee when Eve made a serious conversational blunder. She said to the participant, “And the people who write mean things about you – you just ignore them, right?”

    The participant responded that he actually found it difficult to ignore cyberbullies, though he wished he could. Eve responded, “Right, so you would ignore them. Makes sense.”

    It’s easy to see the problem with Eve’s approach here. She was making assumptions based on what she’d heard from other interviewees, and she neglected to consider that this participant’s experience may have been entirely different. 

    The key message here is: Approach conversations with the intention of really focusing on and engaging with your partner.

    Eve was doing what the author calls surface listening. This is when you hear the words that someone is literally saying but don’t bother paying attention to the underlying meaning. Surface listening might cause you to offer unsolicited advice, interrupt your conversation partner, or assume her experience has been the same as yours. 

    What you want to do instead is engage in empathetic listening, which involves making a concerted effort to understand the meaning behind your conversation partner’s words. This activates the listening loop – a virtuous cycle in which your partner feels free to express her emotions, and you in turn are encouraged to express your own. 

    To get in the mindset for empathetic listening, you’ll need to cultivate three distinct qualities: empathy, humility, and curiosity. 

    Empathy is all about being able to imagine what someone else is feeling without necessarily injecting your own experiences into the conversation. To foster this quality, remind yourself that the conversation isn’t all about you, and ask questions specific to the other person.

    Next, there’s humility, which involves refraining from passing judgment on your conversation partner’s experiences. Remember that you don’t have all the answers, and reassure your partner that she’s free to share everything – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

    Finally, there’s curiosity. Curiosity means being open to what your partner has to say, even if it’s not a topic toward which you’re naturally inclined. Find something that interests you in whatever your partner has to say, and you’ll open the door to a conversation that satisfies everyone.

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    What is Listen Like You Mean It about?

    Listen Like You Mean It (2021) is a friendly, comprehensive guide to deepening relationships through the power of listening. Too often, our conversations with family, friends, and coworkers remain superficial – we talk past each other, refrain from showing vulnerability, or get caught in a tangle of misunderstanding. With tips and scripts taken from the author’s experience as a user researcher, we can improve our listening skills and, in doing so, be heard and understood ourselves.

    Who should read Listen Like You Mean It?

    • Professionals who want to improve their workplace communication skills
    • The socially awkward
    • Anyone seeking more connection and understanding

    About the Author

    Ximena Vengoechea is a San Francisco–based user researcher who has worked at various tech-focused companies including Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter. She is also a writer and illustrator whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Newsweek, the Huffington Post, and Inc. Listen Like You Mean It is her first book.

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