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Developer Skills: Listening

Most people have an agenda when they listen.  They aren't really listening, they're waiting for you to finish talking so they can tell you why you're wrong, or demonstrate their own brilliance.

It is hard to listen without an agenda.  Your mind jumps to how you will respond, or wanders off to what you're going to have for lunch.  Becoming good at this takes a lot of time and practice.

It's worth it because:
  • You learn more - a LOT more.
  • You will often change your point of view for the better.
  • People trust you more - and their trust is justified because you are open to changing your point of view.
  • You will make more connections with other experiences.
So how does one listen without an agenda?  The best advice I can give is to "Fake it until you make it."  Act like you don't have an agenda.  Your need to "own" the conversation will slowly fade away as you repeatedly experience the value of listening with an open mind.

If this doesn't work for you, you might want to try being less of a douchebag.  I recommend therapy and meditation.  I'm not longer a complete jerk thanks to both of those.

You can also apply "active listening" techniques.  One is to repeat what they told you in your own words.  This can very easily be overdone, so be careful that  you aren't substituting technique for genuine openness and curiosity.

The best way to demonstrate that you're interested and listening?  Draw it!   This not only clarifies concepts in your mind, it helps your conversation partner understand their own ideas better.  The best part:  It's easy to capture what you've drawn for later reference.  It's easy to forget the details of a conversation, but if you capture the salient points in a picture or a set of bullets, you can recapture most of what you were thinking.


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