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What Great Listeners Actually Do (hbr.org)
521 points by wallflower 401 days ago | hide | past | web | 198 comments | favorite

As someone who has taught and researched listening skills, I found this article very insightful.

However, let me add that the simple skills they described at the beginning (not interrupting, saying "um-hum," and being able to repeat back), are still good to teach because they are better than what most people do much of the time.

Here's another HN link on listening: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12228062

> simple skills [...] are still good to teach because they are better than what most people do much of the time.

Heck, merely not pulling your phone out is better than what most people do most of the time.

Corollary: conspicuously putting your <distraction interface> away is a clear physical cue that you are now paying attention.

I despise the tactic of repeating back what other people said - it shows me that the other person isn't really dwelling on what I said, or more often in my experience, are using that to distort what I am saying in order to fit a particular agenda. I rather someone not fake listening in that case and wasting everyone's time.

Either you frequently deal with very not nice people, or you for some reason have negative assumptions about those around you. I'd like to assure you that there are many people out there who use repeating back what other people say (a critical component of active listening) to sincerely verify whether they've understood someone correctly, as well as validate the idea that they are indeed listening.

I repeat what people say all the time, especially if I am asked a complex question to make sure I understand. A lot of people get annoyed at me.

Honestly, I've found (only in my experience, not trying to make a blanket statement) that people who get easily annoyed aren't very easy to work with. The question then becomes whether their technical skills are good enough to disregard their lack of people skills. Sometimes, it's not worth it and you try to move on to a different situation if that person is a mainstay for the team. I've found that on really good teams, these types of people are mostly non-existent.

I don't doubt that there are teams out there filled with these types of people who magically understand each other and are always on the same page as if they had some sort of hive mind. I've heard of them, and it gets described as "good chemistry". I've just never experienced one of those teams myself where everyone can read the minds of other team members. For more average people, communication is a really important skill, and that includes not being annoyed by simple questions. Mind you, I can easily be annoyed by simple questions too. It's not like I'm good at this stuff either.

Teams that have achieved "mind meld" didn't just start there, never needing much communication. When you see this, it's usually because the team has had excellent communication together for many months/years, to the point that they have a rich understanding of each other and their communications can express a lot of meaning very efficiently.

Most people are not aware of how poorly they communicate and so they are upset when you don't just "know" what they mean.

Evidence: every requirements document in existence.

I'm with you that repeating back word-for-word (or close to it) is not helpful. I think it's better to paraphrase back to the person talking; the closer the meaning of your paraphrase, the better it shows you've understood their point. Likewise with asking questions, if you can ask a relevant question that they haven't covered yet, it proves you're actually analyzing what they say.

All of these things come under the general heading of 'active listening' and overall it just boils down to "actually be involved in the conversation and interested in the topic."

> I think it's better to paraphrase back to the person talking; the closer the meaning of your paraphrase, the better it shows you've understood their point.

I have found in the past that paraphrased repetition can be all the other person is looking for out of the conversation. A stylized sketch:

A: Hey, I have this problem XXXX, I'm not sure what I should do about it.

B: Ok, the problem is YYYY [paraphrased]?

A: Thanks, that was really helpful.

When my second daughter was born, she had a huge head. We're talking 99th percentile. This is cause for concern, so we took her to a doctor. The conversation went like:

Me: What's up with my daughter's really big head?

Doctor: It's a condition called "macrocephaly".

Somehow, that was reassuring to me, despite realizing that all he did was literally just transliterate my words to Latin—"macro" -> big, "ceph-" -> head—as if that added any novel information.

Funny, I had a very similar experience with my son's head, but it was that his fontanella closed earlier than expected. My conversation went more like this:

Doc: "well, when we see this thing, we're concerned it might be <1 min worth of big scary thing description>... but he doesn't have that."

Me: "Phew... so..."

Doc: "So then we're worried about <2 min worth of big scary #2>... but he doesn't have that."

Me: "Phew. hrmmm, so..."

Doc "So then we're worried about <big scary thing #3>..."

At which point I interrupted:

Me: "Doc, I realize there's a lot of big scary things. Does he have any of them?"

Doc: "No, I think he's fine, he just has a big head."

I think your version of that conversation was probably a lot more reassuring than mine.

Urrgh, that reminds me of one time I was getting some routine blood test results. Lady with a thick Indian accent saying "And you are... HIV...


endless aeons wheel and pass


Not that I'd ever had any contact with it, but wow, way to leave me hanging.

Communication is hard.

I can imagine the doc was trying to reassure you or head off questions s/he gets often by going through the litany of scary stuff ruled out. But maybe should not have buried the lede.

Many (most?) medical terms are just a common description of the thing in Latin. "Anterior Cruciate Ligament" sounds fancy until you realise it just means "the string that goes across at the back." I dunno why but this vaguely annoys me.

I would imagine the tone of voice and confidence would have made a difference. If he said it an a hesitant way I would imagine that it might have got you worried. (I hope it wasn't cause for concern).

Well, the non-jokey answer is that simply transliterating it to Latin does carry novel information. It says, "your child has something the medical establishment is familiar with". That alone carries some reassurance with it.

I can't resist the jokey version. A man goes to a psychiatrist and says "I have this nameless fear." The psychiatrist says, "Oh, that's no problem, we have names for everything."

I agree paraphrasing is usually better. But with complicated matters you are having trouble understanding, word-for-word repetition can help a lot.

Also, for teaching, a lot of people need to do word-for-word first in order to learn how to really concentrate, then they can switch to paraphrasing.

In fact, I have found that a large portion of the population has a problem listening where their attention wanders away and they miss much of what is said, but they don't realize it and think they have heard it all. When you have them do word-for-word reflecting, they miss a lot of the content, and are shocked to realize their attention has wandered away, and indeed they have probably been doing this all their life, and they suddenly become very focused in their listening. It is quite something when you see this happen.

To follow on from your excellent second point - "actually be involved in the conversation"

People understandably don't appreciate if you're parroting back to them what they said (even paraphrased) so that you can appear to be an "active listener".

The reason to repeat what someone said exactly (useful in case you legitimately just missed an important phrase) or paraphrase is because you didn't fully understand what they said and you genuinely want to understand the point. Asking follow-up questions to drive discovery and enjoyment is next.

Being a good listener is about being humble, respectful and present. Turns out that's easier said than done.

Parroting shouldn't be your go-to tactic. It's useful to get you out of a potentially awkward spot to save the momentum of a conversation, but if you're actually involved in the conversation you should have other things to say/ask.

Yes, with technical conversations / difficult concepts I think this is a useful way to do it. If I can reword it and keep the same meaning we can assume I have understood correctly.

Distorted Active Listening is conversational terrorism http://www.vandruff.com/art_converse.html

(edit: added link)

I do the repeating thing when I'm in danger of zoning out. I repeat their words, and then try to rephrase it. It signals to the other person to give me a second or two to come back into the conversation.

It's valuable when listening to people with thick accents, fast talkers, or on the phone.

With people who have thick accents, the reason is probably obvious; but with fast talkers sometimes it's needed to process what the talker said.

For example, yesterday I had to repeat back on the phone because the other guy had a very thick accent and was on a speaker phone.

Usually, the people who repeat back to me are people who aren't native English speakers; or people who aren't technical and need to make sure that they understand a point. I appreciate it.

What's your favorite technique for ensuring that you correctly understand the other person? For example, in a business negotiation, or crucial personal conversation?

Guys! Guys! Do you see what just happened here???

paulsutter didn't include a single thought from the parent nor paraphrased it - but the question and probing clearly made him a good listener! His question elicited a 4-paragraph response from Bahamut (who I would venture to say felt he was being listened to) whereas the other comments (that actively responded to the thought he expressed) did not result in any conversation.

If I don't understand something, asking someone to clarify on the part I misunderstand, asking someone to repeat what was said (with an apology prior - this is mainly if I completely missed what was said), or to give me insight on the detail(s) I am missing - leaving room for the other person to correct me is also important, as it naturally evokes a response if I have a detail wrong and give the person an opportunity to rephrase it. More importantly, it is active - repeating what someone said is a passive act, as it does not demonstrate understanding, but just that someone knows how to repeat words said, whereas if someone is actively engaged in filling in important details & probing the implications of what was presented, the person is more likely to be focused on explaining the relevant details (& being mentally focused on the topic of conversation) than distracting emotions, thoughts, etc.

If I am confident I understand what is being said, I will operate under the assumption of that understanding, and continue on the natural implications, or on occasion, rephrase what was said to verify if there are major consequences (especially something legally binding).

This approach highly depends on ability to trust (to a degree) though. If one is in a situation where one cannot trust the other person's intentions, then one must be on their guard and rely on their ability to parse a situation & come up with an approach (or delay immediate response before being able to conduct the necessary research in order to make a proper response or have a productive discussion if possible).

To borrow an idea from literature, it is generally better to show than to tell. There is utility to telling, but its utility is mostly in speedily conveying an idea (or ideas) in order to get to more important matters.

But what about situations where you think you understand but you don't?

That's often the point of paraphrasing back what was said. I do this in cases of doubt, and often enough I learn my paraphrase was either incorrect or had the wrong emphasis.

I do it routinely enough that I often learn I was wrong when I had no doubts.

This technique does not seem to annoy people; quite the opposite. I'm sure it can be done badly - pure repetition rather than paraphrase would be senseless.l

Edit: upon further consideration, I think I do this when I notice there are multiple interpretations to a remark, or multiple factors at play (where I might think one is weighted 90%, but it could be 10%). I don't paraphrase things that are unambiguous.

I wonder if the paraphrasing itself is seen by that commenter as the "distorting" to fit an agenda? Once or twice I've had people angrily insist that only precisely their words conveyed their meaning - no paraphrasing would do (in a non-technical discussion).

Some people also believe that ambiguity and misunderstanding are not possible, and so checking on their meaning is a waste of time. They don't see the ambiguity, because they know what they mean. Even after several misunderstandings have occurred.

I've mostly had success with active listening, especially when someone is upset. It's reassuring to be given space.

On the other rare occasions... some people really do have issues. Or, maybe I'm doing it badly, not able to adjust to the situation, the specific words and the person. I honestly can't tell which predominates.

Finally, it makes a tremendous difference whether the participants have the same general background and specific context and perspective - on the same page. And whether they are aware of any differences.

When it's a critical topic, you should still paraphrase things that are unambiguous. Because the penalty is too high for critical things when you're wrong, even if the risk seems tiny. In critical situations, assuming that something is unambiguous is especially dangerous.

Oh, I agree. Hard to cover every case in a comment.

Maybe if you're talking to someone like Dogbert... however, I often use this technique in a sincere attempt to understand. I think it works well...

Do you have any book recommendations on listening and/or conversational skills? I read one on a whim, and felt it was pretty insightful, but could probably stand to read another one or two.

I couldn't disagree more. My take on listening: https://letmeexplainyou.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/how-to-list...

I am not entirely sure why I am getting the downvotes. Anyone care to explain?

I didn't actually downvote you, I got here after the fact, but:

1) The post feels patronizing.

2) Even if your post was right, you don't really say why someone should believe it, just that the alternatives are flawed. Why are they flawed? Because you think listening works differently.

3) Maybe this is superfluous, but I don't really believe what you say, and I suspect most people here are in the same boat. There probably is something to the idea that your circumstances affect your ability to listen, and meditating, or getting your life in order will make you better at it. But is it necessarily so absolute? I suspect you can listen well even if you have problems elsewhere in your life, and you can do things to try and pay attention here and now. Now, I haven't provided any reason to believe that, but since you didn't give any reason to believe your story either, I don't see reason much reason to abandon my belief.

Thanks for the feedback Hyperpape.

The computational complexity varieties of listening:

Let n be the number of things the other is talking about (tricky to define a "thing" but, whatever?, use a consistent thing metric)

- O(1) listening: ignoring/may as well not be there - reading your phone while the other talks to you

- O(n) listening: loading their information into your brain while they talk - e.g. repeating back to them, nodding to salient points

- O(n log n) listening: sorting the information they've talked about - talking about the most important bits (after hearing everything)

- O(n^2) listening: cross-comparing all the things they've said for informational pairings

- O(|V|_n + |E|_n + |V|_m + |E|_m) listening: suppose your thoughts are laid out in network form, |V|_x and |E|_x are the # vertices and edges for person x. You are m. Then this is breadth-first search on both your idea-networks.

etc. Thoughts?

edit: I wonder how P and NP come into this! For instance, if someone asks you a question that takes P work, you should be able to derive the answer from what you've talked about alone. But if someone asks you something like, "Were you at that party 25 years ago?" and you have since forgotten, but then your other friend produces a photograph of you in a pair of silly glasses and a clown afro, you can verify quickly that you were! The hardness of remembering something might be classifiable by computational class?

> O(n^2) listening: cross-comparing all the things they've said for informational pairings

If you manage to think of a good hash function for everything they say, you can use a hash table and cross-check every new thing they say in O(1), which makes the total complexity O(n).

Which kind of describes a lot of discussions on the Internet - people pattern-matching what they see/hear to cached thoughts in their brains, and replying to those cached thoughts instead of to what was actually said.

I saw this in person, once. Guy with one of the those super-christian inflammatory signs in the middle of UC Berkeley. Both students and "protester" felt like they were presenting canned arguments "at" each other rather than "to" each other.

Now that I think about it, I could totally see a cabal of professors hiring someone to be antagonistic as a teaching moment.

I see this a lot in abortion debates, because to find any common ground you would need to have a really deep philosophical discussion about the definition of life. There's nowhere else to go from "I think it's murder", "I think it isn't". "Don't legislate my body" is completely irrelevant to people who think it's murder, and "stop killing babies" is nonsensical to people who think there aren't any babies involved.

Yeah, in computing, a cache is a hardware or software component that stores data so future requests for that data can be served faster.

when referring to human mind these terms describe a similar phenomenon:

Salience: facts are more prominent from either highlighting or frequency.

Priming: Recently noted topics may be recalled with less effort.

Recency: Memories from more recent times are more readily accessible.

Not only on the Internet, I'm afraid.

I believe so too, but I couldn't come up with an obvious example from meatspace when typing my comment, so I decided to mention only the on-line variation of this phenomenon, which should be familiar to everyone here.

It's even more necessary in meatspace (LOL!) but we learn to be subtle about it. This analysis is very insightful. Proper listening is cognitively expensive. In many circumstances it can't happen in real-time. Ideas are big and words are small. Both echoic and working memory are very limited. We have no choice but to optimize. Hashing is very efficient. We can hold a lot in our long term memories. The problem is that your new idea isn't in my head already. We need "idea arithmetic" to utilize our existing ideas without voiding new ones. The concept chicken-burger can be represented as hamburger + chicken - beef. That happened to be a perfect match. If it were Bob's Best Turkey Burger then it would be hamburger + chicken - beef ± ???. This is a more optimal representation than just ???. Each "chunk" saves memory for the most novel and important details. Assuming we continue listening. If we run into a chunk we don't like we're liable to start preparing arguments instead. Sometimes we're just tired and decide the match was good enough. The problems with this algorithm occur when it terminates early.

I think our built-in neural network provides a great hash function for these kind of things

Observation: O(1) listening is easy enough that a rubber duck can accomplish the task.

And it's not even the worst level of listening ability.

Yup ;)

This is almost comical :p The brain is not a turing machine. You can't make these kind of analysis because the brain isn't just a huge von neumann computer.

Who says it's not? There's no compelling reason that I've ever heard to believe so.

It is hard to prove a negative (it is easier to prove the brain is something else). As much as Turing completeness seems to emerge relatively easy, given how the analog complexity of our nervous system contrasts with the deterministic simplicity of digital computers, it is a bit naive to make parallels about how they work unless you are making some kind of metaphor.

It is necessarily constrained by asymptotic computational complexity. With or without the memory bottleneck implied by the Von Neumann architecture. That it is a turing machine is not merely a pedantic fact. It has both implications and relevance here. At best a different architecture would exploit more concurrency. I don't think it does though; Language processing is extremely recursive. Noam Chomsky suspects our brains have an adaptation specifically for it. Nim Chimpsky implies he's right. I suspect this adaptation has all sorts of parallels with digital turing machines.

You made me picture a brain evolving some sort of internal lisp in order to build language processing optimizations. :-)

That... is a pretty interesting thought. I'm gonna go into hand wavy mode here. Noam Chomsky also argued [0] that the "language faculty" evolved as a spandrel. Meaning loosely (teleologically) that it wasn't it's own "motivation". This implies that the "language module" [1] may not exist as a distinct structure. Noam Chomsky's deviation from canonical terminology is revealing. He's a very meticulous person; It's not an accident. He specifically disavows a full theory of it's evolution. Other's assert that the idiosyncratic structure of the world's various languages is evidence against this. That the nature of grammar is too complex to have piggybacked on another adaptation. As an accident. It must have been naturally selected for over time. Maybe it was both?

The brain had 4 seconds of echoic memory that it was already pattern matching against; For various "reasons" in the environment. Using this neurology, without further adaptation, we could have learned to identify generic structures in sounds. Languages are just trees encoded as sequences. For example, "the small brown fox ate the white rabbit" is the tree (ate (the (fox small brown)) (the (rabbit white))). The structural recognizer produces a simple hash-like value corresponding to a generic structure. The brain learns to calculate it from the meaning of words. It's the introspective association of these structures with brain states that's ultimately novel. Sequential processing and the state it requires evolved for other reasons. We can use this loose bundle of state for the individual "chunks" we hear. All we needed was the ability to manipulate and maintain recursively structured state. This is just a new meta-state for the generic tree superimposed on these "chunks". Notably, Nim Chimpsky can sign three word sentences. Nim apparently understands the tree (relationship this that). Though he can only form very simple structures; He seems to be utilizing his self awareness. Perhaps the spandrel is piggybacking on the ego. This works great for (eat Nim Banana) but ventures near deranged ambitions like (eat Nim Nim). His environment punishes anything exceeding basic executive function. He is actually extremely conscious when not compared to humans.

The first brains (Planarians) were sort of like jellyfish "brains". They were hardly more than nervous systems and produced no internally sequential cognition. Neural connections formed directed acyclic graphs. They computed referentially transparent functions over sensory input. Their construction was similar to combinational logic circuits. Concurrency was expressed in parallel structure's and not execution steps. Aside from neuroplasticity these brains didn't maintain state. In order for the brain to maintain state it needs a neurological cycle. Evolving such a thing is a very risky endeavor. Simple cyclical structures are liable to produce dangerous feedback; Like Nim's ambitions above. Every cycle takes a developmental and cognitive toll on the brain. It has to learn how to cope with each of them. New cycles must overcome this cost, by producing novel and sufficiently rewarding behavior, otherwise they die.

A stateless brain has a significant limitation. It can easily become stuck. Sensation (input) causes action (output) which reproduces identical sensation. Fixed points persist indefinitely without external intervention. This creates selective pressures for the adaptation of state cycles. The brain can instrument the body for signals like hunger and fatigue. This gives the brain more "external" interventions. But this won't relieve much pressure. The body's state is just the body's state. It isn't a general indication of when you ought to exit a fixed point. The brain can still become stuck and it's terribly expensive. Behaviors, regardless of potential reward, cannot risk entering a fixed point. Lets say a coconut might fall out a tree if you kick it. You can't try it or you'll just stand around kicking the same tree forever. State and sequential processing solve this problem. As an intermediate solution, behavior could be randomized using a noisy feedback loop. Carefully avoiding the brain's distaste for cycles it could then go on to become proper state. This can produce emotional states like boredom. Also basic executive functions like: kick it if you didn't just kick it. It takes a long time to evolve something as self directed as Nim. Then just a bit longer for Eve to bite the apple. Once invented, language would have imposed tremendous evolutionary pressure on the development of introspective state with increasingly sophisticated structure. Simple operational languages co-evolved into the sophisticated cultural languages we know today. This could explain most of what distinguishes our variety of intelligence from the other animal's.

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spandrel_(biology)#Language_as... 1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_module

When all you have is a hammer...

If every known tool was a literal hammer... then all you'd ever have is a hammer.

The brain is most certainly a turing machine.

The brain can emulate a Turing machine but not necessarily vice versa

I don't see a good reason why a turing machine can't simulate a brain, or even a whole universe

Maybe. You'd need to understand the universe before you can answer in the affirmative.

A Turing machine can't properly simulate randomness...

Pseudorandomness is fine, and given you do have an infinite amount of tape, the pseudorandom generator doesn't ever have to repeat either.

Can you prove that human behavior can be replicated using pseudorandomness?

A turing machine can simulate the whole universe and everything in it.

Thanks, that has sure assuaged my qualms -.-

The brain would need to leverage quantum effects to achieve hyper-computation. Otherwise it follows the same rules as other turing machines. Here's a quote from Scott Arronson:

"Indeed, I see no evidence, from neuroscience or any other field, that the cognitive information processing done by the brain is anything but classical." -- http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=1951

Notably this is from a post discussing quantum effects as a potential explanation for consciousness. There's still no evidence for that either. Also, if true, it would only sit atop a classical cognitive process which acted as a turing machine. That or a horde of tiny turing machines.

I find it a bit odd you categorize methods of listening by computational complexity, rather than by the method itself. Also, the brain is not a sequential machine. And different algorithms can be used to achieve the same effect.

For example:

- O(n^2) listening: cross-comparing all the things they've said for informational pairings

Who says this can't be done in O(n log n)?

I guess I used complexity as a proxy for involvement. And of course the brain isn't a sequential machine - reaction times, voxel fMRI analysis, and lesion or connector studies show that consciousness is a network phenomenon. That said holding in one's mind the illusion (value as determined by observer..) of a list of instructions isn't so far off from how I imagine many would choose to describe the mind-feel of their particular process when it comes to listening? And if the illusion breaks down because the brain has lower lower bounds than whatever non-materialist a priori wishful thinking one might expect from mental algorithms, then, that's nice I guess or something?

I think I just wrote it to induce my intuition in others, but you're right in saying that there's no proof that a brain operates with the same atomic instructions or architecture as I've pulled out of thin air above..

oops too late to edit but 'connector' should be connectome

The brain is massively parallel, your analysis seems to assume 0 parallelism.

True; but one way I can get around this is that the strategies don't all require the same underlying brain architecture requirements. For instance number 1 doesn't even require a brain. Other than that, doesn't my analysis, concerning only the order of steps that must occur in aggregate per algorithm, sorta work out regardless of parallelism? Or do you mean that a multi-state computational brain could do a collection of moves simultaneously, say a vector of n linear actions as 1 brain vector-action?

There are fairly simple physical processes that can solve assumed exponential time problems in constant time for low values of N (most famously probably soap bubbles and the spanning tree problem).

I think it's not even remotely productive to make these wild assumptions about how the brain works. We know very little about the workings of the brain. It's very probable that this sort of analysis has almost no correlation to what's actually happening in the brain.

I get where you're coming from, but you're demanding too much rigor prematurely for my nascent idea :P Which, come to think of it, probably is related to my having browsed half of some Scott Aaronson paper on the philosophy of computational complexity.. You know what they say - neurons that fire together, wire together!

Just replace the "brains" in my post with "completely fictional abstract mechanistic brains whose behavior a human brain can emulate, hopefully not so far off from the qualia of The Real Thing." But I'm a big boy, and am all ears to PubMed-and-the-ilk articles that go into why I'm wrong!

I guess the point is, if you can sort of recognize these patterns of information process at a Very High Level Internal Logic and Monologue (tm? lol) in your experiences with consciousness - i.e. how would you explain how you thought internally from a premise to an answer - would it look much differently than this?

I doubt that the most pragmatic answer would include descriptions of the microsecond-level G-protein transactions, the millisecond tree diagram of where each synapse released how many vesicle molecules, how these were interpreted and then made sense of via an internal vocalization process, etc?

At the end of the day, how evidence based or proof based does arm-chair navel-gazing really need to be? :P

All tongue in cheek, of course. But maybe this discussion gives some people "intuition pumps" (ew, I just cited Dennett..) with which they'll make their own falsifiable claims that may even hopefully be worth sharing themselves.

Taking analogies literally deducts at least one point from your listening score.

Parallelism doesn't matter for big-O complexity

The brain may be parallel, but attention [0] isn't for all intents and purposes.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attention

So it's an analysis of the cost of listening in attention/energy, not of time before the processing is done.

Instead of time-analysis consider it to be space analysis and the analogy holds up pretty well.

You could also just point out that the brain is finite, if you were nitpicking.

The conversation will take O(n) time no matter what, so parallelism doesn't matter.

Can't you reduce the O(n log n) to O(log n) by picking the most important points instead of sorting everything?

Most people prefer talking to listening, so just asking a few question can get most conversations going. It's not unusual to hear someone say "we had such a great chat" when really that person did most of the talking. A trick that is used by many introverts, with great success.

"With great success" for the introvert. The person doing the talking didn't really gain anything.

And also when this happens to me I actually don't enjoy it. Propping up one sided conversations sucks, and I doubt that nearly as many people enjoy it as you're assuming.

You're making the same mistake as the person you are criticizing: Assuming that most people feel the same way you do about speaking vs listening.

As always, it depends on what the person needs. It seems like you are a person who needs others to answer back and you feel like you are "giving" and the other is "taking" if you are talking and they aren't.

Many feel the opposite. Listening is giving and talking is taking.

For a lot of people talking is much easier than listening. You just say whatever comes into your head.

Neither of you are more correct. Personally, I hate it when either person monologues. Both people talking is preferred. But that is just a preference.

> The person doing the talking didn't really gain anything.

That's not necessarily so. If you just sit there like a lemon while somebody makes words at you, then, sure, they're not likely to get a lot out of it, except perhaps slightly improved buccal muscle tone. You have it within your power to produce a more valuable result.

This is why I come to HN..to find articles like this. This defies what you learn at school, because I have been taught numerous times, to nod and stfu when you're holding a convo.

Always interrupt if you have something constructive to say in a casual/business conversation (unless you're in a debate), that's how you gain trust and credibility.

This depends on the person talking. In work situations I have dealt with some (rare) people who will just talk over you if you try to politely insert a suggestion or a question.

Very occasionally, the right response is to interrupt them impolitely. Much more often the best thing is to let them finish. It's an almost passive-aggressive solution, but sometimes it's the best you can do.

Of course, too much of anything is bad. At the end of the day to be a good listener, you need to listen.

I distinguish 'interject' (ie. to quickly add in your two bits' worth and then allow the speaker to resume) from 'interrupt' (ie. to talk over them and keep talking, often on a different topic).

I'd just like to interject for a moment. What you’re referring to as listening, is in fact, listening/interjecting, or as I’ve recently taken to calling it, listening plus interjecting. Listening is not a favorable method unto itself, but rather another free component of a fully functioning talking system made useful by the functional eardrums, wave properties of matter and the composition of the atmosphere comprising a full conversation as defined by the societal standards.

(you can ban me now. I won't regret this)

Yes, the social difference is tremendous. Few people mind if you interject. But if you truly interrupt you're just sidetracking the conversation, that doesn't really help.

> Always interrupt if you have something constructive to say...

This is dangerous advice. Being perceived as someone who frequently interrupts is socially detrimental. As another commenter said, save it for when someone really makes it necessary, and converse with grace at all other times.

Nonsense, sometimes people don't know when to stop talking, and it's more dangerous to let them continue. In those situations having the courage to interupt, and the knowledge to do it diplomatically, is important.

I agree with you, but the original commenter said that you should always interrupt if you have something "constructive" to say. The problem is that one person's constructive input is another's waste of time.

Wouldn't that be how you establish yourself as a know-it-all? (I haven't read the article yet)

You might know it all. If someone actually knows everything, one would be a fool to mock them for it. Never look a gift horse in the mouth.

People label others with hostile things like "know-it-all" as a way of dealing with their own inferiority complexes.

In my experience building organizations that have totaled over 275 humans: it's a rare, rare person that can truly distinguish hearing from listening. The key to being a good listener is simple: always, to the absolute best of your cognition, meet the speaker in their place.

You should come up with a better "key" -- one which doesn't require expansion. Wtf is meeting someone in their place?

Like putting yourself in his shoes ... Imagine what it would be to be in his position, considering his background (important). And sympathize (feel his emotions).

Putting yourself in their shoes? Being able to sympathize with their goals and desires?

After almost a year volunteering in 7cups.com as a listener, I can't agree more with the article. When you show genuine interest for what other people are telling you, they will talk openly for hours and will leave the conversation feeling way better than they started it.

> almost a year volunteering in 7cups.com as a listener

How have you found it? I've thought about doing that myself from time to time, and I would value anything you'd like to share about your experience there.

In general is a very rewarding experience and in 7cups.com it's also very comfortable to do it (I don't have experience in other similar services so I can't talk about them). You don't have any pressure on when or how many times you should do it and how much time you should spend. You volunteer whenever you feel up to (and this is how it should be because your mood is very important when you are dealing with these things).

People's problems can variate from light ones to very complex ones so it's very important to have the adequate mindset, keeping in mind what you are doing there (offering support by listening) and where are your limits. If not, the frustration can overcome you.

It's not free of trolls but I have rarely found them there and the majority of the people is very grateful just for boosting up their mood, which gives you a good feeling after finishing a conversation :)

This is exactly the sort of answer I was hoping for; on the strength of it, I think I may very well decide to give it a try. Thank you very much! I really appreciate you taking the time.

You are very welcome! I'm glad to hear that you are may give it a try. Good luck and do your best!

Totally agree with you. I've been volunteering at a crisis center and active listening is so vital to what we do.

One of the easiest metrics I've found to determine whether or not oneself is a good/great listener is to honestly assess:

Am I busy thinking about what I'm going to say when I get a chance?

The more the answer is "yes" the less listening a person is performing.

I don't think that's a very good metric. In fact easily coming up with follow up questions that already come to one's mind while listening is a strong indicator for an engaging conversation.

Or did you mean "being busy" as struggling to come up with anything worthwhile to say? Then I'd agree.

Assessment does not have to happen real-time. The intent is to reflect on interactions at a later point to determine if one is actively listening.

  In fact easily coming up with follow up
  questions that already come to one's mind
  while listening is a strong indicator for
  an engaging conversation.
I completely agree that formulating follow-up questions are a key indicator of active listening. The key point with the metric I presented is when that formulation transpires.

If it is while another is speaking, then the listener is not engaged in listening due to considering their own response instead. IMHO, it's natural to make a "mental note" regarding a thought/topic while another is speaking and then present a considered response/question subsequently.

It's tough to not think about what you want to say/add when the conversation is engaging.

That is, "your thoughts, when told to me, made me have my own thoughts about the subject which, hopefully when I tell you, will make you think as well."

There are moments where I stop myself from interjecting during a quick pause, and rather politely wait for a long pause to add my viewpoint only for the conversation to have altered course to the point that I'd have to backtrack on a topic no one is talking about anymore. Something that is especially difficult to do when it's a group conversation.

To disengage the impulse to attempt to further/enrich the conversation has got to be a learned behavior, in my view.

This type of debate raises the question of what kind of conversation is best. Is just being listened to better than having a thoroughly-engaging convo? Depends on the person and the moment.

Good listeners are also well rested.

I'm a good listener, but not at the moment. After long days of programming and some lack of sleep I notice that my listening is going down. I really dislike this because I think now I'm faking to be a good listener.

As for a lot of things: rest and sleep is important.

"People’s appraisal of their listening ability is much like their assessment of their driving skills, in that the great bulk of adults think they’re above average."

Well, the vast majority of people are actually above average drivers. If you got into 0 accidents over the past year, then you are doing better than average.

(Similarly, most people have more legs than the average human)

Most people also think they're a better-than-median driver.

> "People’s appraisal of their listening ability is much like their assessment of their driving skills, in that the great bulk of adults think they’re above average."

My take on this is that most people DO have above average driving skills. However, that is using each persons INDIVIDUAL driving skills assessment criteria.

So a cautious person would say that they are above average because they are cautious while driving. Similarly an impatient person would say that they are above average because they make turning decisions fast and don't waste other's time. So the corollary is that individual people see that nearly everyone else is a worse driver than them, because they have different value systems.

There are many factors other than the number of accidents that also contribute to driving skill.

Now, if some holistic measure was also skewed in a similar fashion, you would still be correct. But that would require further analysis to demonstrate.

Depends on what sort of average. We might consider medians instead (with some way to make sense of these against the general backdrop of a non-continuous distribution).

Sorry, I'm a little slow today. Can you elaborate on that last statement? Are you invoking a trick meaning to the word "average"?

Since some people have one leg, and some have none, but nobody has three legs, the average number of legs is slightly less than two.

Most people (more than 50%) have an above average number of legs, arms, and eyes, but a below average number of nipples. This is because having more than 2 legs, arms, or eyes is exceedingly rare, whereas there's a small number of folks who have 1 or none, which brings the average below 2. Similarly, extra nipples are more common than losing a nipple. It's the difference between median/mode and mean.

'Most people' -> mode

'Average' -> Arithmetic mean

Mode < Mean in this case because the distribution is skewed to the left


The average number of legs per human, worldwide, is slightly under 2. However, the vast majority of people have 2 legs.

My take on listening:


TL;DR / Summary:

Listening is innate Listening is not an active skill. Practicing it as such diminishes your ability to truly listen. Listening is improved through improving your own peace of mind One’s peace of mind is improved by doing good things. E.g. completing chores, being nice to people, doing things that reduce your regrets / guilt, etc. DO NOT follow much of the incorrect advice given around active listening and traits of a good listener. Listening is a special case of all using any sense, and the above advice applies similarly

I mean, I hear where you're coming from and I'm not going to say you're wrong, but this is like saying that endurance training is unnecessary because humans are innately able to run marathons.

I think metaphors and analogies are difficult to argue with. Of course I am saying something which is hopefully falsifiable otherwise I am not really saying anything at all.

The best way to test this is some kind of controlled experiment. But aint nobody got time for that.

I would say however, there is absolutely no need to take my word for it. I would actually recommend you don't. You can test this out for yourself. I would certainly recommend that. After all, it's more about what works for you.

> it's more about what works for you

No. It's about what works for the person to whom I'm listening, and my experience suggests at best an extremely limited role for a personal zen, however well polished.

Well then our experiences differ. That's okay.

Of course your experience is your evidence. And that is what I mean by "what works for you".

What I find hardest about listening is not to solve problems ... It's not about the nail: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg

Honestly, it seems as if the article is just bending the definition of listening. It appears their idea of "the best listener" is the person who engages you the most in conversation. Sure, that person might be a more valuable person to talk to, but I fail to see why that has to be the definition of a great listener.

No, it is not arbitrarily changing the definition. They did a study where they asked people to identify how good others were at listening, and then studied what behaviors distinguished those who got the highest ratings.

The article is freely interchanging the concepts "being a good listener" and "being perceived as being a good listener" from one sentence to the next. That's worse than arbitrarily changing the definition (but being consistent with it).

I don't understand there to be any difference between the two. There's no objective judge of listening. There's only the other person, and how well they feel heard.

There can definitely be separate concepts.

Someone could be perceived as a good listener because they put on a good show of listening and even ask questions in real time—but when you ask them about the conversation afterwards, they might have very little understanding of what was actually discussed.

Likewise, someone could be listening intently while doing a very poor performance of listening.

There's definitely a difference. You could be perceived as a good listener, while actually not understanding or remembering what the other person is saying. On the other hand, you could appear to not be listening, but if later quizzed on the words spoken you would ace it.

Try describing the concepts without using the word "listen". Most likely you agree and are fighting about irrelevant definitions.

I'm not so sure. johnfn claims "There's no objective judge of listening". Why not? Students are familiar with the idea of a standardized reading comprehension test. Is it impossible to imagine that we could construct a listening comprehension test? If so, you could then demonstrate that its possible to flunk the "perceived as good listener" test while acing the "listening comprehension" test -- underscoring that notion that these are distinct concepts.

The meanings of words are determined by usage. If this is what people mean by the term "good listener," then that is what it means.

That doesn't necessarily identify good listening skills, which perhaps was OP's intent.

My ex partner always said I didn't listen to her. I really want to be a better listener.

It seems to me that the key to listening is to actually be present and not half thinking about something else or what YOU want to say. Hard to do.

>> thus, if you’ve been criticized (for example) for offering solutions rather than listening,


>>> thus, if you’ve been criticized (for example) for offering solutions rather than listening, >guilty

This is not necessarily a question of "guilty". There are two major directions a conversation can go - "sympathy" or "solution". If your partner wants one, and you give the other, you operate under wrong premises due to an unstated assumption. On both sides.

(If your "guilty" was a request for sympathy, I'm currently failing majorly. :)

You could do worse than ask people what they want out of a conversation when you start the conversation.

This is crucial. I've found that when I talk especially with people who reside more on the emotional side of the spectrum (I myself seem to be more on the logical side of the spectrum), I need to really clarify before the conversation gets too deep that I'm good at expressing solutions, but I'm not so good at expressing sympathy/empathy. I'm good at having sympathy (not always empathy), but I'm not good at expressing it.

People who contact me frequently to talk about something have come to understand this, and they just trust that I am being sympathetic, even if I am not showing all the signs. But for people who are not used to talking with me, they can sometimes find me unsettling and get upset at me. If someone could explain to me how to appear sincerely sympathetic in a way that makes sense to me, I'd love it. But nobody's ever been able to do that in a way that doesn't make me feel like I'd be pretending, which is awkward and weird, because it's not like I'm not sincerely sympathetic in my heart of hearts.

I'm also not naturally good at it, and the best I've come up with is that it's basically letting them know (in a way that is natural for you) that you believe that a world in which they have this problem is worse than a world in which they don't have this problem.

In fact just switching my default response to someone presenting a problem to: "that sucks" showed a marked improvement in interpersonal relationships for me.

What was your previous default response?

Watch how other people do it and fake it 'til you make it.

It helps to remember that you aren't lying in this; the feeling is real, only the performance is (temporarily) synthetic, and you're doing it to help your interlocutor feel safe and comfortable in the conversation, which in turn makes it more likely you will be able to help them. It will feel fake for a while, and you'll need to keenly observe reactions to know when you've got it dialed in. Eventually it becomes second nature and the feeling of fakeness goes away.

  If someone could explain to me how to appear
  sincerely sympathetic in a way that makes
  sense to me, I'd love it.

I'd go with the direct approach and not bother with appearances. It's consistent, easy to remember, and emotionally honest. For example:

  I'm an analytical person and am genuinely interested in
  what you have to say.  If you'd like to hear possible
  solutions I can think of, then they would be with the
  intent of trying to help.  If not, I'm here to listen.

"Emotionally honest" is a copout. What you mean is that it's easy for you and keeps you squarely centered in your comfort zone, while the person you supposedly think you're going to help has to do all the scary work of leaving her own.

I don't see how being emotionally honest qualifies as a cop-out. The GP's statement was about appearing to be sincerely sympathetic. What I recommended was to be true to themself and offered an example of how that could be stated in a constructive manner.

Perhaps the example I provided was not appealing to you, which is entirely understandable.

The GP's comment also included this crucial statement, which you might have overlooked:

> I'm good at having sympathy (not always empathy), but I'm not good at expressing it.

He wants to be better at expressing the sympathy he feels. That's why I said that, even though it feels fake at first, stick with it and model yourself after what you see other people do, and over time it will become quite natural. This is the same process by which humans learn almost all social behavior; it's just relatively rare to do it as an adult, when consciousness and introspection are fully formed and the concept of sincerity discovered.

The problem with the example you provided is not that it didn't appeal to me; I can understand where you're coming from with it, and I appreciate its sincerity. The problem I have is that that statement is not fit for purpose. In almost any case, it's not a tool which will work.

When I participate in this kind of conversation, I do so expressly because it's an opportunity to help someone. In order to accomplish that goal, it is necessary that my interlocutor be comfortable enough to open up and share the kind of information I need to fulfill the role I've chosen for myself in that context. In order for that to occur, I need to meet that person where he is. As I said, I understand and appreciate the nature of your proposed statement - but I also understand that most people are not like us, and not the sort of person with whom a such a bald statement ("Message: I care") is going to resonate.

So it's going to be very rare that a statement like that will serve the purpose I require of it, which in turn means that, if I use it, I will fail at something into which I've decided it is worth investing considerable time and effort toward succeeding.

My initial analysis suggested that, in order to make it possible for people to be comfortable enough with me that I might have a meaningful probability of being able to help them by any means, it would be necessary to develop a great deal of social fluency. So I did that. Then I went looking for ways in which I could deploy it to the benefit of others, and I found them. I'm still nowhere near as good at that as I intend eventually to become, but retrospective analysis suggests that even the moderate degree of skill I've developed in that regard has enabled me to produce a net positive emotional impact on the people around me - perhaps marginal for the most part, but demonstrable nonetheless, and showing a distinct if modest upward trend.

But I've put a lot of work into it, too, and it is not quite accurate to say that I'm the same person I was when I started. You might want to put some thought into whether that's something you feel is worth your while.

I hope you'll decide that it is. I've chosen to make a vocation of creating for other people, for a little while, a world to live in in which, sometimes, someone just cares. If you decide to do the same, it increases the chance that someday someone will do that for me. And there are days when I could really use it.

Leading with sympathy in personal relationships is usually a good idea. If you express sympathy when they want solution, they will often start thinking of solutions aloud, or flat out ask for your opinion. If you suggest solution when they just wanted sympathy, they will often respond with disappointment, anger, or defensiveness.

Perhaps just as often people don't know or understand what they want.

One thing that helps for expressing sympathy is using words or metaphors that describe the the person's emotions, like "that sounds scary" or "you sound angry"

Another thing is to describe what seems to be the heart of the problem, like "you want to trust him, but you aren't sure it's a good idea."

Also, once the person feels like they have expressed themselves and been well-heard, that may be all they want. But other times they then move on to a solution, either on their own or are interested in your ideas.

I too am guilty of every characteristic of bad listening. It's turning out to be a hard thing to work on.

Recognizing that is probably step one in getting better at it.

Listening is a journey. Now I seek conversation with people usually unaccustomed to being listened to. To give my trust as they give theirs, a conversation can be a beautiful joyous thing.

A huge fraction of what I do for a living is as a consultant or an interviewer. So I had better be an effective and in particular high-bandwidth listener.

1. I absolutely provide feedback about what I think I heard. One common technique is versions of "I think I understood you to say X, Y and Z. But I have question A, and whatever you said that sounded vaguely like B flew totally over my head."

That kind of thing boosts my understanding in a hurry. And the other party usually seems to appreciate it.

2. It's a cliche' in consulting that whatever question the client asks isn't the question they should be asking, or the most important one that's on their mind. So you have to get somehow from the stated question to the real one. In some consulting relationships, that can take days or weeks, and you'll still have done a great job. But in others you need to do it pretty much on the spot, in the same part of the same conversation that the question was originally asked.

3. If you feel you interrupted too much, then stop and invite the person to repeat themselves uninterrupted. I believe that I am usually forgiven when I do that.

Listening, and the mode of listening, depends very much on the mode of conversation.

If the case is someone issuing orders, particularly in a critical situation, then yes, you want people to follow attentively, acknowledge the statements, and recall them, correctly, as they apply them.

If you're having a casual conversation with friends, you're looking to, generally, build rapport and mutual cohesion. It's active listening (or more, mutual conversation), but the focus is often lacking -- things can wander.

If you're hashing through (or reviewing) ideas with someone, or a small group, then the highly focused form of interactive participation described is appropriate. Where it's successful -- where people have sufficiently common experience to follow the discussion, but sufficiently divergent to be able to suggest productive directions, and the participants are engaged and committed to supporting the conversation rather than scoring points, torpedoing it, or bolstering some ideology, then that conversational magic can happen.

I suspect an Anna Karenina principle is at play -- good conversations are all good in the same (or at least strongly similar) ways. Bad conversations are each bad in their own way.

I've had the experience of the mistaken interrupter -- the person who tries to finish your thoughts ... but is always wrong (there's a YouTube video of this I saw recently, it's very much as infuriating in real life as the video makes out). I've known people who cannot follow a conversation at all -- it's somewhat like leading a small child along, and prodding them. Not only do you have to point them in the right direction every few feet, but they're wandering off in some utterly incorrect (and inexplicable) direction when you don't do so. In one case, this seems related to an inability to form a correct model of what's happening in other people's minds (or having any idea that such a model might be useful).

There's lack of familiarity with material, there's prior beliefs and knowledge which aren't correct. There's inability to draw connections or inferences (often accompanied by anger or frustration when prompted or coached to try doing so).

Fascinating things, minds.

The article misses something important. It presents 'being a good listener' as a way of tricking the other person into giving up information. OTOH a REALLY good listener is genuinely interested in what the other person has to say. It's not a mind-game or a piece of oneupmanship: you have to actually give shit because this is a human being talking, not just an 'FTE'.

You can't "perform" good listening skills. Listening to people is about caring what they are saying.

This article appears to be written by people who are not capable or interested in caring about what other people are saying. They techniques they described are phony. Good listeners are never phony.

One of my favorite listeners is the pianist Chick Corea. Sure he can dazzle when the spotlight is on him but the support he provides as an accompanist is also top notch. Interestingly his listening skills as a jazz pianist are evident in his speech. In the same way that he helps his colleagues on the band stand to realize their visions in the moment he also seems to help channel the ideas of the people he talks with. There is an interview he did with John Mayer that I think illustrates this well. IMO Corea is a better listener than Mayer where as Mayer seems to be more involved with his own thoughts.


Well yeah. If remaining silent was considered "good listening" then people would talk to walls.

The six levels suggested in the article could also serve as a guide for speakers.

If you're trying to convey important information and the listener just doesn't seem to get it, ask yourself whether you are expecting them to engage in a higher, more demanding level of listening than they are currently able to.

For example, the article says that 80% of what most people try to communicate occur at Level 4: body language. But if you can convey at least some of that information verbally, you'll be able to achieve similar results even if the listener is only at Level 3. This is especially useful if the listener is on the other side of a phone call or an internet forum.

I totally agree with this:

"Good listening is much more than being silent while the other person talks. To the contrary, people perceive the best listeners to be those who periodically ask questions that promote discovery and insight."

I had a manager once who would say "mmm-hmm" all the time. It was really distracting and actually made it seem like he wasn't listening at all, even if he was actually hanging on my every word.

Some Japanese carry their listening habits over to English when they learn it as a second language. This involves a lot of these noises and small words like 'amazing', 'wow' etc even if the topic is mundane. I've been told they consider that polite, but in English it's quite irritating.

Huh, that's kind of interesting, although in this case the person in question was about as white as you can be.

I have a manager now who spews out information like a water main and instead of natural pauses, they make weird sounds like 'uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh and another thing'. They are also extremely hard to interrupt so if there's something they said that needs clarification, it's a pain in the ass to get clarification because they're still speaking at my second attempt to ask a question before diving deeper into the rabbit hole. Ah new managers.

Is spewing out information like a water main a heavy, dense stream of information or a just a stream of verbiage (could cut out 90%)?


"Good listening invariably included some feedback provided in a way others would accept and that opened up alternative paths to consider."

This might be related to why group brainstorming doesn't result in good ideas as often we think:


"[...] other subtle body language signals. It is estimated that 80% of what we communicate comes from these signals."

Sounded strange to me, so here's some background: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beyond-words/201109/is-...

Politeness + Insight + Empathy. It's easy as PIE!

But it seems PIE was a very difficult language.

Proto-Indo-European had nine noun cases, three genders, and no regular verbs at all.

That is a great acronym. I'm going to hold onto that, thanks!

I agree. So simple, so awesome. Well thought.

You're welcome.

Years ago I found habit 5 of Steven Coveys "7 Habits of highly effective people" a great ("idiot's") guide to listening. That book is often reduced to habit "first things first", but said chapter was much more life changing for me. Also to be applied when raising kids (Covey should have known, he and his wife had 9 of them).

It's almost like the word "listening" is being used instead of the more appropriate word "supporting".

Can we just stop using the word "listening", which was never appropriate for this context, instead of debating/evaluating its meaning?

interesting research. i wasn't really that surprised by what they say about suggestions - i always thought the problem with giving suggestions is not in suggestions per se, but rather in the way they are given. people often suggest solutions in a condescending way that sounds like they're saying "your problems are so easy, here's the solution". or, the phrase "why don't you just...". it's of course really easy to be objective about things that have nothing to do with you personally. but when someone really listens well, i think they will empathize more, respect the other person's feelings, and this will be felt in their suggestions.

Side note: the hbr.org website is taking over 30% of the screen by showing this thick upper gray bar, which the only function is to show you how far you've already read. What a waste of space & UI.

Idiotic -.- "In fact, much management advice on listening suggests doing these very things – encouraging listeners to remain quiet, nod and “mm-hmm” encouragingly, and then repeat back"

Nothing but vague insights that shouldn't be surprising, IMHO.


Doesn't level 6 sound like therapy, basically?

So great listeners do what great teachers often do. Especially when teaching one-on-one or in discussions.

I've closed many a sale by simply just listening.

Are there any excellent books on this topic?

I'll throw out Marshall Rosenberg's "Nonviolent Communication." Call it one framework for listening centered around resolving conflict between individuals and groups.

It provides examples of the kind of active listening and questioning mentioned in the article.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonviolent_Communication#Four_... https://www.amazon.com/Nonviolent-Communication-Language-Mar...

That's a good starting point, thank you!

That's a great book.

Great Listeners always use empathy.

They retrieve weekly contracts from the Night Mother diligently.

yess!!! finally I can show some valid points to long time nonsensical guys! :D Its about time.

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