One of the most popular books in the self-help industry is Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”  In the book, Mr. Carnegie discusses how being a good listener is a great way to make new friends and how people enjoy being around someone who listens to them attentively.

A lot of people mistakenly believe that to make friends one has to be a great conversationalist or someone who is good at telling stories.  However, in the real world, people who make friends easily aren’t good conversationalists; they’re simply good at listening to other people.  They ask questions and they get people to talk about themselves and their interests.  In other words, people who make friends easily are good listeners, not good talkers.

How to Win Friends and Influence People
Credit: Dale Carnegie

Become a Good Listener Starting Today!

So, how do you become a good listener?  You ask people questions and you get them to talk about things that are important to them.  Everyone wants to be loved and accepted and the best way to show someone you care is to listen to their stories.  Don’t interrupt someone who is talking and don’t think about what you’re going to say when they’re finished telling a story.

Anyone can talk, even to someone they don’t care about, but to really become a good listener you have to shut up and let other people do the talking.  People enjoy being given a chance to express themselves and they will gravitate to you if you let them speak without interrupting them or without looking at your watch or appearing inattentive.

Remember that people have a whole range of opinions, thoughts, desires and fears.  When you give someone an opportunity to express themselves, they’ll feel better around you and like you more as a result.

Listening Well Doesn't Mean You Don't Talk at All

Listening well doesn’t mean that you have to sit silently while someone tells you their life story; it means genuinely letting someone else’s ‘world’ into your own.  It’s really hearing what they are saying and taking it all in.  You may ask questions to demonstrate that you’re paying attention and you can even repeat back to the person something they just said.

For example, if someone is talking about an automobile accident they experienced, you can ask about their feelings or about how they dealt with the incident.  Asking questions will demonstrate to the person that you’re really listening and that you care. 

The best conversations happen when both people are completely engaged.  You can nod your head to show you’re paying attention and you can demonstrate with your body language that you’re interested in what the other person is saying.

Ask short questions.  Get curious about the other person and look them in the eye as they are speaking.  Can you remember the last time someone was really curious about your life’s experiences and what you had to say?  It felt good didn’t it?  You probably felt as though you were connecting to the other person and you felt comfortable around that person.

To sum it up, if you want to change your life today the most important skill you can cultivate as a human being is to listen to other people.  Listening well is a skill you can improve over time as you begin to understand how people respond to you in a social setting.  Get in the habit of being mentally and emotionally present in every conversation and before you know it you’ll have a lot of friends.