The most important role in any conversation is listening, and writers are some of the best listeners out there. Here are three approaches to listening that can strengthen your writing, and your conversations.
- Listening strategically: Laëtitia Eyssartel, co-founder and Principal Consultant at Evenings & Weekends Consulting, says, “A strategic listener listens to challenge their own assumptions, and to deepen relationships with those around them.” Listening strategically allows us to be informed, to change our minds if necessary, and to lead with empathy. Writing, when it incorporates adequate revision time, is one of the best opportunities we have to think through our ideas and devise strategy.
- Listening for details: Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones, argues “Writing…is ninety percent listening. You listen so deeply to the space around you that it fills you, and when you write, it pours out of you…. The deeper you can listen, the better you can write.” Writers are close visual observers, but it’s also important to capture details through your ears. Try it: The sound of the shower water falling around you, passing cars on wet streets, the clack of your keyboard. Then communicate those sounds through your writing.
- Listening to yourself first: Oscar Trimboli, one of the preeminent experts on listening, says that before you can show up to be a listener to others, you must be a listener to yourself. “Without truly connecting and listening to what’s going on inside our own head,” he says, “we are unable to be fully present with others.” As a writer, think about the biases, goals, and assumptions you’re bringing to the page. What are you trying to achieve with your writing? What is not helpful, and what can you discard?
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