Step 3: Be Curious & Interested

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply

Stephen Covey

Two of the most basic of all human needs are to be heard and understood, and the best way to hear and understand people is to be curious and listen to them.

Lee was the most curious person I have ever been around. He discovered that the art of meaningful conversation is not having something valuable to say but listening to what the other person has to say that could be valuable. It’s called active listening.

It is paying attention to what is being said in a way that creates curiosity. This curious listening conveys that you not only hear what is being said but also that you care about their story. It keeps you engaged in the conversation, prevents your mind from wandering, and curbs your temptation to interject. It is the process of listening attentively while someone else speaks, paraphrasing, and reflecting back on what was said, withholding judgment and advice.

Everyone wants to be seen, known, heard, and understood, especially hurting detached people. They desperately want someone to be interested in their story. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them; they just want to have someone care that they are hurting and acknowledge that they understand why without judgment.

Since we are all naturally self-centered people, we have to really be intentional when connecting with others. Go into conversations focusing on what the other person has to say. They need to know that you are there to listen, so keep these things in mind:

Make and keep eye contact.

Be quick to listen and slow to speak

Be curious and ask clarifying questions, one at a time

Ask follow-up questions that prove you are listening

Let them guide the conversation

Stay focused, pay attention, and don’t multi-task

Don’t interrupt

Be interested in their story and seek to understand

Acknowledge and affirm with body, facial, and verbal expressions

Don’t be in a hurry to leave.

Leeboy did all these things, and he made it seem natural. In his pain, Lee was very aware of being misunderstood, so it was important to him to make others feel listened to and understood. He was very curious about the details of one’s circumstances and was in no hurry. He was there to listen and understand, and you felt it.

He realized that hurting people may be reluctant, at first, to divulge specific details of their pain, so Leeboy would pivot and ask questions about family, dreams, and emotions. One of his favorite go-to questions was “How’s your head and your heart?” And he really wanted to know!

More questions that can show that you are tuned into their story and that you care:

Help me understand. Better, tell me more about _____________?

Where do you feel most understood?

Do you feel like anyone cares?

Who would you like to respond to you, and how?

What do you see as the best outcome?