This famous quote is often attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte and it took the greatest part of my life to finally get to understand the deep implications of the maxim:
- listen carefully
- listen very carefully
- give the speaker the chance to talk some more
Many books refer to it as active listening, but I would really you to focus on the word CAREFULLY.
It literally means full of care. It implies that your involvement in the conversation is definitely not passive. It is active, hence active listening.
It is active because you are deeply interested in getting anything that your partner is saying, so to put yourself in the best spot ever to utter an intelligent reply.
This is truly important when you care about your partner and you want to be emphatic and supportive, but it becomes paramount when you are talking with an opponent. Or an angry customer.
In that case, you are probably defending your point of view, and your partner is working hard to make her point.
As long each of you is only busy defending your point, there is hardly going to be a winner or a loser. You guys are just stalling, and you can maybe win just by wearying out the other guy.
This is very tiresome and inefficient. But the good news is that by listening carefully you can outwit your opponent by questioning her own points.
Questions are Key
There are no ways you can convince me that the Earth is a big ball when I’m steady on my idea that it’s flat, and a big wall made of ice circles it to protect us. No way.
Mark Twain used to say: “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”
But if you are smart enough to listen to me, listen deeply to my Flat Earth arguments, you may be able to ask something on the line: “why are shadows changing during the day?”
Questions will mine your opponent's position on a subject using her own arguments against it. It’s like verbal jiu-jitsu.
By practicing active listening or careful listening you will most likely see immediate and unexpected results in the conversations you have.
People will likely stop arguing with you. Either will buy into your arguments, or they will simply stop defending theirs so much. Either way, it will be easier for you.
Never abuse this super-power!
The point is to avoid useless and endless discussions, not just spread your own view of the world. If I think the Earth is flat, and I’m happy with it… so let be it!
Full Disclaimer: I think the Earth is a huge pinball - true story.