Saturday, March 28, 2009

Listening Attentively and Effectively

Trust me on this — I make my living listening to others — your date will tell you everything you need to know about him or her in the first 15 minutes. Not 50. 15. Train yourself really to hear what your date’s saying (and believe it). Of course, therein lies the rub: While love may be blind, dating is almost always deaf.
My friend Elaine “bought” a date with a soap star at a charity auction. She could scarcely afford her winning $250 bid, but she had such a crush on the guy she was willing to brown bag it for the half year it would take to make up the deficit. They met at a trendy New York restaurant. He looked incredible. She was flushed with the thrill of it all. Their first minute of conversation, as she later relayed it to me, went a little something like this:

HE (laughing): I can’t believe you paid so much for me. I’m not worth it.
SHE (also laughing): It went to a good cause — me.
HE: I’m really not into the dating scene. I barely have time to learn my lines and go to bed.
SHE: Thank you for squeezing me into your busy schedule.
HE: I barely made it. I’m leaving for L.A. tomorrow.
SHE: Business?
HE: Hopefully. I’m up for a series.
SHE: Good luck. I hope you get it.

Of course, she was lying, and he was telling the honest-to-goodness truth. Elaine thought their date went smashingly well and was devastated when he didn’t call her again — which she could have known he wouldn’t do if she’d listened with open ears instead of a too-wide-open heart. He’d told her flatout he wasn’t worth it, didn’t date, and was going to move 3,000 miles away. And he’d said it all in the first 30 seconds of their evening together. Learning how to listen is not easy, but it is simple. You have to train yourself to focus on the present moment only — not on your witty comeback, the followup question, the stupid thing you can’t believe you just said, the parsley you can feel lodged in between your teeth. You have to be in the now. Period.
If you want to be a good listener, you have to
  • Train yourself to stay with the talker, word for word, until he or she is finished. Simple concept, but really difficult to practice.
  • Suspend judgment and open your heart and head, as well as your ears. Listen to what the person is actually saying — not what you want to hear; it’s crucial not only to dating but to all human interactions.

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