“What? How did I not know that?”
ME: “You never asked.”
Many a summer weekend was spent alongside Mums in our group of sporting kids. I knew every minutia of the perpetual chaos and drama in the days of their lives, but they never enquired after mine.
I felt like an unwrapped Russian doll 🪆- a disused ornament blending into background noise.
I had plenty to say, interesting and relevant, funny even, but I figured they just weren’t interested, so I conserved my energy and just listened.
But this was my mistake. Unknowingly, I had fallen into the listening trap.
I had set myself up to be the ‘listener’ in the relationship, with them as the ‘taker’, oops, I mean ‘talker’ – a pattern that was hard to break for both parties.
They thought I was just quiet (ummm, no – as someone who leapt spontaneously onto a stage in front of hundreds and took off my T-shirt); and I thought they were self-absorbed (kinda true).
The problem was I had not shared my thoughts and feelings from the get-go or anything to pique their interest for them to see me as an actual crying, talking, sleeping, walking, living doll. 🎵🎵
They had mistakenly assumed I didn’t want to talk and carried the conversation for the both of us.
As an introvert, I tend to attract those on the radar for an open ear to word vomit into.
And mostly, I’m willing and eager to listen as I’m genuinely interested. But when a reciprocated ‘what about you?’ doesn’t materialise, it leaves me feeling resentful and drained.
I crave a balanced exchange where I’m not talked at but instead immersed in a conversational game of Pong, (my 70’s version of gaming addiction).
And so, I set out to find out how I could avoid establishing one-sided monologamous friendships and swerve the listening trap.
And that’s when I learnt these three surefire 🔥 tactics that you can try too.
You deserve to have your seven seconds of spotlight. You’re not just there to look pretty. What you have to say is just as important.
So push yourself to start talking more, even if it feels unnatural and you have to fight for airwaves.
Grab any opportunity to say ‘me too’. It creates curiosity, a hook for the other person to begin investing in you as a person worth knowing.
And when you start sharing more about your own life, you crowd out their talk time – (like when you’re on a diet and you’re supposed to crowd out your plate with your five or more green things, with a pitiful space left for the face-fattening yummy stuff.)
Explore what you have in common and talk about that.
You’ll have more chances to interject and get wildly excited talking about something you both enjoy.
And it opens the way to sharing your particular experiences and still being interesting enough for them to try listening for once.
Ask for their opinion on a problem you’re trying to solve.
Guaranteed to work in almost any scenario.
This switches them from being totally absorbed in one-self to totally absorbed in you without even coming up for air.
As everyone has an opinion, people love to give you advice (usually unsolicited), and they’ll jump at the opportunity to expense their worldly wisdom.
You can discuss what you’ve tried and what others have said and compare it to their suggestions. The conversation becomes a mutual exchange of thoughts and ideas, creating tight bonds through teamwork and problem-solving.
I’ve emerged from the depths of the listening traps to looks of surprise (holy hell, it speaks!). It doesn’t come naturally, and it’s easier to sit back and say nothing, but then I just gather dust and become invisible.
Who I am matters – who you are matters.
And the only way to escape the listening trap and create close connections and friendships is to speak up and share your lives with others.
p.s. Want to find friends for more fun, laughter and happiness in your life? Download the Quick Start Guide to finding fabulous friends in your 50s for meaningful connections that will bring you joy. It’s FREE!