I was sent a review copy of Lynne Baab's latest book - The Power of Listening - about a month or two ago. With one thing and another, I haven't had time to get into it properly, but I've dipped into it over the last few days, just to get the feel of it, in particular chapter 8 The Listening Toolbox, and chapter 9, Anxiety and Listening. Because I do a little pastoral supervision work, these chapters have both proved useful in terms of reminding me about the skills required for listening in a particular situation (supervision) and listening to people in general, in conversation, whether it's a conversation that's skimming the surface, plumbing the depths, or just being enjoyable.
It's very easy to put yourself at the centre of a conversation, and after having lunch yesterday with a group of people I know reasonably well, and travelling an hour to the venue and another hour back again, I had some opportunities to consider how I was doing in the listening area. Not 100% marks, maybe, but reasonably high. I enjoy talking with people about what they're doing, finding out more about them, hearing their views. Like so many conversationalists, however, I have to watch that I'm listening to what they're saying, and not preparing to put my oar in while they're still talking. Getting the balance right can be tricky.
Of course, it's not enjoyable to 'converse' with someone who spends the entire time talking about themselves (unless that's what the conversation is intended to be about) but equally it's not enjoyable for the other person in a conversation to feel that as soon as they've told you something you come in and 'top' their story with something you think is better. It's so easy to dredge up some old story
you think is relevant to the topic, give it some frills and make it the focus.
Anyway, thanks, Lynne, for a book that's helping in this department. Even though I've read it out of order, I'll get back to the rest as soon as I can!