You’re Not Listening Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: You’re Not Listening is a book that will improve your communication skills by revealing how uncommon the skill of paying attention to what others are saying is and what experts teach about how to get better at it.

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Do you know what habit 5 is of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? It’s “seek first to understand then to be understood.” That book was 30-years-old in 2019, and this habit is still my favorite and one that we all need to get better at. It’s powerful not only in business but in making every individual that you meet feel like the special person that they are.

That’s why you need to listen to what Kate Murphy has to say in You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters. This dying art has the potential to skyrocket your success and happiness at work and in all relationships.

Here are 3 of my favorite lessons from this book:

  1. If you want to really stand out in today’s world, stop talking about yourself and learn to hear what others are saying.
  2. Developing a natural curiosity about others is a vital step to improving your communication skills.
  3. To become a good listener, you need to get better at asking the right questions. 

Are ya ready kids?? I can’t heeeeear you! Just kidding, let’s dive right in!

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Lesson 1: Really hearing what others are saying is a rare and valuable skill that will set you apart from the rest of the world.

A while ago I asked a question on Facebook every day. At first, it was an experiment to see how I could better connect with people. I realized that many of these online acquaintances were my real friends and family that I rarely see in person. I wanted to get to know them better rather instead of just posting what I’d had for lunch like everyone else.

After a while, I started getting quite a few people answering. I was reconnecting with friends I hadn’t spoken to in years, and we were all loving it. Then I got busy and had to put it on hold. I recently ran into a friend who brought up how much he enjoyed them, so I began again.

I told him what I tell everyone I talk to about this. Social media just isn’t designed the way that real communication works, quite the opposite in fact. You don’t just go up to someone and show them a picture of your lunch. The first thing you do is ask a question! I wanted to repeat that, but I also wanted to listen. Which, I’ve found out, is what people really want from us.

This is the problem with our world, we’re so engrossed in broadcasting ourselves in social media that we don’t know how to listen. The average attention span is less than those of goldfish now. 

That’s why the skill of listening will really set you apart because it will show people that you really care. The author spoke to some of the best listeners in the world to see how to do it right, and the result is this amazing book.

Lesson 2: If you want better communication skills, you need to learn to be curious about people.

I love asking people questions about themselves. Everybody’s got a story and each is so unique and interesting. I’ve got my regular list that I ask people that makes it easier. But people really love when I ask follow-up questions that show that I’m listening.

One retired FBI hostage negotiator is so curious that he can’t help but go ask random people about themselves. When in hotels, he’ll visit the bar just to find someone to get to share their story with him. He’s not doing it because he needs to investigate them, but rather to fill his insatiable curiosity. 

I’ve got a similar desire, but I wasn’t always this way. If you want to get better at being curious, practice talking with people. 

Come up with a list of questions and then strike up random conversations but focus on asking people about themselves. If it’s too much to try this with strangers, you can do it with your close relatives that you want to get to know better. This is also a great chance to improve your listening skills by practicing not talking.

Barry McManus is a CIA interrogator who got a Pakistani nuclear scientist to confess he knew Osama Bin Laden after 9/11 just by listening to him. The trick was to listen to the man first, which made him trust McManus enough to divulging the information. To be a good listener, you don’t have to say much, just be good at asking questions!

Lesson 3: Learn how to ask the right questions to become a good listener.

Boston College’s Charles Derber is a sociologist that says there are two kinds of responses in conversation:

  • Support Response
  • Shift Response

If a friend told you that their dog ran away for a long time, you might give a shift response by telling how your dog never gets out. This shows that you care, but doesn’t do much for helping the other person feel better. 

That’s why you need to learn how to use support responses. In the case of your friend’s dog, you’d respond with sympathy and ask a question. You might try asking where her dog was when she found it, for example. 

The key to getting these right is to ask questions that get people to explain their situation in greater detail. You might try a follow-up about a specific aspect that you don’t understand or want to know more about.

When you ask questions to provide support, don’t use leading questions like “don’t you think that…” as this just imposes your thinking on them.

Most people know how to solve their problems, they just need someone to listen to them in the right way.

You’re Not Listening Review

I always love a good book about communication skills and You’re Not Listening didn’t disappoint. It’s not fun to realize that I fall for some of the traps that this book talks about, but I’m glad that I now know how to improve! If you’re looking for ways to connect with people better, you’re really going to love this one!

Who would I recommend the You’re Not Listening summary to?

The 35-year-old husband who needs to get better at understanding what his wife truly wants and needs, the 59-year-old manager who wonders why their employees aren’t following company policies, and anyone that wants to improve their conversation skills.

Last Updated on July 23, 2023

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Luke Rowley

With over 450 summaries that he contributed to Four Minute Books, first as a part-time writer, then as our full-time Managing Editor until late 2021, Luke is our second-most prolific writer. He's also a professional, licensed engineer, working in the solar industry. Next to his day job, he also runs Goal Engineering, a website dedicated to achieving your goals with a unique, 4-4-4 system. Luke is also a husband, father, 75 Hard finisher, and lover of the outdoors. He lives in Utah with his wife and 3 kids.