You Are Not a Good Listener.

You’re not a good listener. You’re just not. 

If you thought “You’re right. I try, but I have a long way to go,” you are probably right. If you thought “How dare you! I too am a great listener!,” you absolutely aren’t.

If you want to prove to us that you are in fact a good listener, complete this challenge and let us know the results.


Why is it so important?

A bunch of my friends are frustrated with their spouses, and I know the reason is that they don’t listen to each other. But it is very difficult for them to put a finger on why they feel like they are constantly being interrupted? Why do they feel like, at the end of the day, they go to bed with a lung-full of stories that didn’t get a chance to get out?

Because they can’t identify a not-good listener if they don’t know what a good listener looks like. And a lot of us don’t.

Say I come home from work, completely frustrated by the absentee manager. My friend asks me how my day was, and I say “Ugh. My boss! I can never find her when I need her the most.” Most of my friends immediately launch into
an interview.
– “Did you try making an appointment?”
– “How do your coworkers say about it?”
– “If the work gets delayed because of her absenteeism, is the responsibility on you or on her?”
Or a lecture. 
– “You just have to be more assertive.”
– “Why haven’t you brought this to the attention of their boss?”
– “Suck it up! You’re lucky to have the job you have.”
– “Look on the positive side.”
Or some kind of faux “support” session.
– “Don’t worry! You can do it!”
– “I know it’s tough, but I have faith in you!”
– “I’ll bring over ice cream! We can watch a movie and forget about that jerky boss.”

None of the above is a good listener response.
Why are they not good listener responses? Let me ask you – how much listening did they do after the first sentence? Zero.


The Ichiban Challenge:

This challenge gives you the entire basis of a good listener, and it is very very simple.  The next time someone is telling you something about them, make the moment ALL about them for 3 minutes.

There will be
– no “I,”
– no thoughts about how you feel about the topic,
– no judgement about how they feel about the topic, grammar, word choices, or tone,
– no opinions about the story,
– no reflections about you like “Oh I too have a story,” and
– no thoughts about doing this challenge or wondering when the 3 minutes are up.
And, most importantly,
– no taking anything personally, e.g. feeling offended, insulted, or minimized.

Basically, no “you” or your story. 100 % about them and their story. It’s the amount of time to make an ichiban noodle. It’s half as long as a hard-boiled egg. But it’s not an easy challenge.

If you make a mistake, you can either reset the 3-minute timer or pick another conversation to try the challenge.
For instance, if you’re a staunch Ms. Clinton supporter and the other person is praising Mr. Trump, that presents a particularly challenging situation for you to commit to being a good listener. This challenge is hard enough without making it harder; Pick an easy one like when your friend is complaining about bad drivers.

A very friendly heads-up and tough love.

I’d like to give you a heads-up that everyone struggles with this challenge. Please do not be discouraged if you make mistakes.

There are two types of responses to making mistakes.

1. “Ugh! So hard! I’m so frustrated and upset. This challenge makes me feel so bad about myself.
But let’s just keep going. To bring greater peace and support to my spouse/friends is worth the trouble.”
– This is SO HARD to do. If you can say this to yourself, you’ve basically bagged this.

2. “Ugh! So hard! I’m so frustrated and upset. This challenge makes me feel so bad about myself.
I did talk about myself for a bit there, but I had a good reason. It was relevant, and I know they enjoyed hearing about my experience. [Or I didn’t really talk about myself. I talked about how I related to them!]”
– This is ok, but if you are in this space, I’d recommend you stop with this challenge. It’ll be nothing but frustration for you.


What Good Listeners look like.

They won’t be fazed by this hypothetical Trump/Clinton conversation. Let’s talk about why.

Good listeners can handle the Trump/Clinton conversation because being a good listener does not require you to agree on or validate what she is saying about Mr. Trump or Ms. Clinton. Not because that’s not your role as the listener in the conversation but because the word “agree” does not belong in this conversation.

“Agree” (and “not agree”/”disagree”) takes the subject “I.” It is a verb spoken to describe your opinion. The 3-minute clock on the Ichiban Challenge gets reset as soon as you start talking about yourself.

Once you do the Ichiban Challenge a few times, the first thing you learn is that the topic of the conversation is always the speaker, not what she is talking about. It is the story told from her perspective. It’s about how he experienced it. It’s not about the “it.”


If I want to learn to be a good listener?: Examples

Simple: Focus on the person in front of you and talk only about him/her. S/he is the topic of the conversation. What s/he is talking about is not the topic.


Some examples.

“I love skiing.”
“Me too.” = You changed the topic either to skiing or to yourself.

“I love skiing.”
“Skiing is so much fun.” = You changed the topic to skiing.

“I love skiing.”
“Have you been getting a chance to ski lots this year?” = Way to go! She is still the topic of the conversation.

“It’s been way too hot this year.”
“I love the heat!” = You changed the topic to yourself.

“It’s been way too hot this year.”
“Climate change. tsk tsk. Did you watch that documentary about the pollution from China?” = You changed the topic to weather.

If I want to learn to be a good listener?: The MANTRA

What worked for me was just saying “It’s not about me!” like every 10 seconds of my life.

It is not about you. Not every conversation is about you, and a great majority of the conversations are in fact not about you.

It’s not about you. The fact you have an opinion on the matter, as valid as the opinions may be, probably does not justify you speaking up right here right now.

It’s not about you. The fact that person’s opinion on the matter is so wrong does not justify for you to speak out right here right now.

It’s not about you. You being offended does not mean they offended you.

It’s not about you. The celebration of your friend’s graduation has no room at all for your sharing of your university experience. It is 100 % your friend’s stage.


Now some tricks to keep in your back pocket:

“It’s been way too hot.”
“No way. This isn’t even top 10 hot summers.” = well, this is not great on so many levels. So… what can you do if you didn’t think it was too hot at all?

“It’s been way too hot.”
“Just too much for you, hey?” = This is fine! What you did here is the same as “uh huh” but without agreeing. This example is important because…

“Trump is too loud.”
“Just too much for you, hey?” = “uh huh” or nodding here may be unsuitable for people who are Trump supporters because it may imply you agree with the statement. By repeating the statement right back, you’re moving the conversation right along without agreeing with the statement.

“I love skiing. Do you ski?”
“Yes, I do. I did a great ski trip last year where… [starts telling a story]” = you changed the topic to yourself. When the other person appears to pass the baton to you, it requires an advanced skill.

“I love skiing. Do you ski?”
“Yes, I do. Are you looking for someone to go with?” = you passed the baton right back.

Now, in that last example, wasn’t the person giving you the baton? Wasn’t it your turn to tell a story? Maybe. Possibly. I personally always give the baton back at least once to see if they meant to give me the stage or it was just something they said to be polite.

A special message to people who are passionate

Do you start making a point as soon as someone says “Clinton” or “Trump” or “Bernie”?
Do you have a hard time restraining yourself from talking politics when someone tells a cute, not-disrespectful joke about the candidate you supported?
Have you made more than 2 posts per week about your cause, like veganism, animal cruelty, or homeless?

Then this chapter is for you.

Even when a Trump supporter and a Clinton supporter may clash so emotionally on the political topic and get into a 3-hour debate, they are two human beings. Even if they spend 10 % of their life talking politics (which is a massive amount), they should spend the rest of the time knowing that the other person is a human first. In other words, not every time someone says “Trump,” is it meant to be turned into a political debate.  A soldier risks his/her life for people without first asking which candidate they support. If we do not treat each other with respect as human beings, we spit in the face of those soldiers.



Please post your experience below.


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