Allow me to toot my own horn: I am a good listener. I don’t mean that I can sit quietly next to someone, nodding sympathetically/enthusiastically/whatever-emotion-is-called-for for hours on end without interrupting. I mean that I am very good at hearing what those around me are saying, whether it be verbal or non-verbal, and internalizing it. And it is my super power.

People always comment on how thoughtful and perceptive I am. I am regularly praised for having a good memory. But it is just because I listen, file it away, and parrot it back to them at a later point. I have only recently started to realize how a) rare, and b) valuable this skill is. So many people just don’t listen to what those around them are saying, or, more likely, can’t reconcile someone else’s point of view with their own because it conflicts in some way. I see examples of it every day, from the post yesterday about the dude who was not picking up one GTer’s myriad clues that she was not interested to communication problems in my friend’s relationships to issues at work. Basically, my listening is effective because I simply accept that something can be important to someone else even if it is not important to me. I put no value or judgement on it, I just file it away in my head.

My ability to listen has made my life better in so many ways. It has made my friendships deeper. It has allowed me to get along with housemates and co-workers that I would never otherwise be friends with. I’ve won work contracts simply because I included word-for-word what someone in the agency I was applying to told me they wanted as a key outcome. I am a great gift giver, mostly because I just listen to what the people I care about say they are interested in/enjoy/want.

My ability to listen has allowed me to diffuse potential disagreements with Boyjangles. If he says something is important to him, I internalize it and make it important to me, because he’s the most important person in my life. On New Years eve he suggested going to some awful, far away party with his brother. I really didn’t want to go, and I said so. He started to become annoyed and closed off, and so I said, “We can go if this is what you really want to do, but it doesn’t sound fun”. And he said, “No, it doesn’t sound fun, but I’ve been feeling cooped up and I want to see my brother.” He was telling me what he wanted - to get out of the house, and to connect with his brother. So I said, “Well, how about we go for a long walk on the beach and watch the last sunset of the year. We’ll bring some beer, we’ll get burritos, it’ll be fun. And we’ll go see your brother tomorrow when there aren’t a million drunk people on the road.” He instantly brightened, because he was getting what he actually wanted, which was not some terrible party in the valley. But if he had said “I really want to go to this party” I would have done it, because he wouldn’t say it unless it was important to him.

There are 2 people in my life this strategy doesn’t work with, and that is because those people are constantly saying contradictory things, sometimes from one sentence to the next. For those people I’m a bit at a loss, but I’ve learned to go by their actions rather than their words, since words clearly mean nothing to them. But I really believe that, for the most part, the people around you are telling you who they are and what they want/need from you. All it requires is your ability to hear them.