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You're Not Listening

What You're Missing and Why It Matters

By Kate Murphy
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  • Contains 9 key ideas
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You're Not Listening by Kate Murphy

You’re Not Listening (2020) casts a spotlight on the undervalued skill of listening. It’s filled with examples of talented professional listeners, as well as practical advice for getting more out of conversations with others – not by saying more yourself, but by listening more closely to others.

Key idea 1 of 9

Listening is a rare skill – especially today.

We’re not really encouraged to listen these days. It’s pretty much the opposite, in fact: we’re encouraged to broadcast ourselves. We train ourselves in public speaking, we constantly announce ourselves to the world on social media, and of course we chat away endlessly on our phones.

But when was the last time you truly felt someone was listening to you? And how about the last time you really listened closely to someone else?

It’s ironic that even though we’re more connected than ever before, we’re also experiencing what some have called an epidemic of loneliness, as the population ages and younger people retreat to their phones and computers. It’s easier to stay in contact with each other, but the quality of all this communication isn’t cutting it; people still feel isolated.

In other words, they're not getting the attention they crave. You won’t be shocked to learn that our attention span has gone down recently, but you might be surprised that – since as recently as 2000, according to research by Microsoft – the average attention span has decreased from twelve seconds to just eight. That actually puts us below the nine-second attention span of a goldfish.

What’s to blame? Our phones certainly play a part, as well as all the other technological devices we’re addicted to. In fact, distractions are everywhere around us – even in the form of the music piped into shops and cafes.

All of which means that there’s something extra special about focusing your attention on what somebody else is saying. A good conversation can cut through all the background noise around us. And you’ll be amazed at the things you’ll learn. Everybody in the world is interesting, the author suggests – you just have to ask them the right questions.

How do you do that, though? The author spoke to some of the best listeners in the world to find out.

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