• Toby Sinclair

Book Summary: You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy | Big Ideas and Best Quotes

Updated: 3 days ago


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⭐ Toby's Rating: 9/10 - Recommended For: Managers & Coaches

📹 How to Build A Listening Habit

For anyone who has misunderstood or felt misunderstood. - Kate Murphy

3 Big Ideas 💡


Reading this book, you’ll discover

  • Listening goes beyond just hearing what people say. It’s also paying attention to how they say it and what they do while they are saying it, in what context, and how what they say resonates within you.

  • Good listeners are able to deal with cognitive complexity. They are able to cope with contradictory ideas and grey areas. They know there is usually more to the story than first appears and are not so eager for tidy reasoning and immediate answers.

  • When listening, your stance should be curiosity. Ask questions out of curiosity as opposed to questioning to prove a point, set a trap, change someone’s mind, or to make the other person look foolish.


2 Most Tweetable Quotes 💬


To really listen is to be moved physically, chemically, emotionally, and intellectually by another person’s narrative.

To listen does not mean, or even imply, that you agree with someone. It simply means you accept the legitimacy of the other person’s point of view and that you might have something to learn from it.

1 Top Takeaway ➡️


Listening is hard. I often fall short of being a great listener. It's easy for the mind to drift or to assume you know what the other person is talking about. I also struggle to find people who can listen well. I'm sure you have this challenge too.


Kate uses the phrase "lost art of listening"which is a great description.


This book helps you reconnect with the art of listening. There are many examples of the power of listening to transform. For example, the feeling of love that can be generated when someone actively listens to you.


I really enjoyed the scientific studies shared in the book. In particular, that when someone shares an opposing view to yours, your brain responds like it's being chased by a bear!


This was the biggest takeaway from the book for me. How to listen well when faced with a challenging viewpoint. I'll be putting Kates advice into action:


At the moment you feel you are going to react with hostility toward those who disagree with you, take a breath and ask them a question, not to expose flawed logic but to truly expand your understanding of where they are coming from.

Contents



The Lost Art of Listening 🎭


“Nature hath given men one tongue but two ears,2 that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak.”

Greek philosopher Epictetus


To really listen is to be moved physically, chemically, emotionally, and intellectually by another person’s narrative.


People are now we are too busy, or too distracted, to explore the depths of one another’s thoughts and feelings. The ability to listen to anyone has been replaced by the capacity to shut out everyone, particularly those who disagree with us or don’t get to the point fast enough.


In a 2018 survey of twenty thousand Americans,5 almost half said they did not have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend, on a daily basis. About the same proportion said they often felt lonely and left out even when others were around. Compare that to the 1980s when similar studies found only 20 percent said they felt that way.


Truly listening to someone is a skill many seem to have forgotten or perhaps never learned in the first place.


Hearing is passive. Listening is active. The best listeners focus their attention and recruit other senses to the effort. Their brains work hard to process all that incoming information and find meaning, which opens the door to creativity, empathy, insight, and knowledge. Understanding is the goal of listening, and it takes effort.


I Know What You’re Going to Say: Assumptions as Earplugs 👂


While you might think you’d be more likely to listen to a loved one than a stranger, in fact, the opposite is often true. People in long-term relationships tend to lose their curiosity for each other. They don’t listen because they think they already know what the other person will say. It’s called the closeness-communication bias.


Relying on the past to understand someone in the present is doomed to failure.


Listening to people who are not close to us brings a different set of biases, but they, too, are rooted in false assumptions. Most notably, confirmation bias and expectancy bias, which are caused by our craving for order and consistency. To make sense of a large and complex world, we unconsciously create file folders in our heads into which we drop people, usually before they even start talking. The categories can be broad stereotypes influenced by our culture or more individualistic based on experience. They can be helpful and accurate in some instances. But if we’re not careful, our rush to categorize and classify can diminish our understanding and distort reality.


By listening, you might find comfort in shared values and similar experiences, but you’ll also find many points where you diverge, and it’s by acknowledging and accepting those differences that you learn and develop understanding.


Listening to Opposing Views: Why It Feels Like Being Chased by a Bear 🥊


Always be mindful of internal stances, or attitudes, while listening.

“Your internal stance should be one of curiosity”

Ask questions out of curiosity as opposed to questioning to prove a point, set a trap, change someone’s mind, or to make the other person look foolish.


Listening requires, more than anything, curiosity.


Studies show that children and adults who are securely attached tend to be more curious and open to new information than people who are not. It’s another tenet of attachment theory that if you have someone in your life who listens to you and who you feel connected to, then the safer you feel stepping out in the world and interacting with others.


The most valuable lesson I’ve learned as a journalist is that everybody is interesting if you ask the right questions. If someone is dull or uninteresting, it’s on you.


To listen does not mean, or even imply, that you agree with someone. It simply means you accept the legitimacy of the other person’s point of view and that you might have something to learn from it.


When beliefs are challenged, the brain lights up as if being chased by a bear.


We almost can’t help ourselves because when our deeply held beliefs or positions are challenged, if there’s even a whiff that we might be wrong, it feels like an existential threat.


At the moment you feel you are going to react with hostility toward those who disagree with you, take a breath and ask them a question, not to expose flawed logic but to truly expand your understanding of where they are coming from.


The truth is, we only become secure in our convictions by allowing them to be challenged.

Someone who has been listened to is far more likely to listen to you.


According to Carl Rogers, the psychologist who coined the term active listening, listening to opposing viewpoints is the only way to grow as an individual:

“While I still hate to re-adjust my thinking, still hate to give up old ways of perceiving and conceptualizing, yet at some deeper level I have, to a considerable degree, come to realize that these painful reorganizations are what is known as learning.”

- Carl Rogers


Good listeners are able to cope with contradictory ideas and grey areas. Also known as Cognitive Complexity. Good listeners know there is usually more to the story than first appears and are not so eager for tidy reasoning and immediate answers, which is perhaps the opposite of being narrow-minded.


“Capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”

John Keats


In the psychological literature, negative capability is known as cognitive complexity, which research shows is positively related to self-compassion and negatively related to dogmatism. When people listen without anxiety and they are open to hearing all sides. It enables better judgments and sounder decisions.


When Listening..... "The real secret to listening I’ve learned is that it’s not about me. I’m holding my cup out in front of me. I want them to fill my cup and not pour anything in their cup.”

Naomi Henderson


The most successful teams listen to one another. Members take turns, hear one another out, and pay attention to nonverbal cues to pick up on unspoken thoughts and feelings.


Listening creates psychological safety, where people were more likely to share information and ideas without fear of being talked over or dismissed.

When To Stop Listening 🛑


Sometimes you need to make the call to stop listening. While you can learn something from everyone, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone until they run out of breath.


“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”

George Eliot


Our Conversational Expectations:

  • Quality—we expect the truth.

  • Quantity—we expect to get the information we don’t already know and not so much that we feel overwhelmed.

  • Relation—we expect relevance and logical flow.

  • Manner—we expect the speaker to be reasonably brief, orderly, and unambiguous.

  • Inclusion - we expect politeness and fairness in turn-taking


Listening is not just something you should do when someone else is talking; it’s also what you should do while you are talking.


Tis the good listener who makes the good conversation.

Careful listening is draining, regardless of your personality, aptitude, or motivation. You can’t do it continuously. Indeed, air traffic controllers are limited to one-and-a-half-hour to two-hour shifts before they must take a break.


“You’re like a bowl of chocolate mousse and everybody’s got a spoon.”

When someone listens to you, it can feel so much like love, some people may not know the difference. Part of being a good listener is knowing your limits and setting boundaries.


Not listening because you don’t have the intellectual or emotional energy to listen at that moment makes you human.


Listening is your gift to bestow. No one can make you listen.


But just as you should be mindful and intentional when you grant the gift of your attention, you should try to be as mindful and intentional when you withhold it.


What Words Conceal and Silences Reveal 🔕


It’s a rare quality, particularly in Western cultures, where people get extremely uncomfortable when there are gaps in conversation. We call it dead air. A hesitation or pause is seen as unbearably awkward and something to actively avoid. People are poised to jump in at the slightest indication that a speaker might be trailing off, even if the person hasn’t quite completed a thought.


When researchers graphed around fifty thousand pauses or transitions that occurred during English language conversations, they got a dramatic bell curve between-1 and +1 seconds (negative numbers indicating the times people began talking before the other person stopped talking). The highest peak was around 0–200 milliseconds, which means there was no pause at all between speakers or there was a pause that lasted less than the blink of an eye. Studies of Dutch and German speakers yielded similar results.


“The silent person is the best to listen to.”

Research shows that being able to comfortably sit in silence is actually a sign of a secure relationship.


In western cultures, people tend to interpret silences longer than about half a second as disapproval, sanction, or ostracism, so they rush to say something to try to raise their standing. A silence of just four seconds is enough for people to change or nuance their expressed opinion, taking the quiet to mean their views are out of line.


There’s a big difference between being “silent with” and being “silent to,” just like there’s a big difference between “laughing with” and “laughing at.”


There’s a generosity in silence but also a definite advantage. People who are comfortable with silence elicit more information and don’t say too much out of discomfort. Resisting the urge to jump in makes it more likely you will leave conversations with additional insight and greater understanding.

©2020 by Toby Sinclair.

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