In John Mulaney’s 2018 stand-up special, Kid Gorgeous, there’s a throwaway joke I've always loved. Mulaney recounts a conversation he had with a friend. He says, “Anyway…He was talking and I was waiting for him to be done so I could talk. So he’s ‘talk, talk, talk.’ It’s my turn next!”
We’ve all been there (or maybe I’m projecting—I’ve certainly been there): You’re technically “listening” to someone, but in your mind, you’re really just planning what you’re going to say next. It’s…not great.
That’s why I was so excited to talk to journalist Kate Murphy. A New York Times contributor whose work has also been featured in The Economist, Texas Monthly and more, she’s the author of an enlightening—and necessary—book: You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters.
For the book, Murphy interviewed hundreds of people about what it means to be a good listener. The most common response? A blank stare. “Really, without exception, I got a blank stare,” she says. “But at the same time, people can readily tell you what it means to be a bad listener. Things like interrupting, looking at your phone, non sequiturs, that type of thing.” According to Murphy, that goes to show that people have more experience with being interrupted, ignored and not listened to than really being heard.