Marc Wong – Movie and Listening Magic

I love movies. When I was in college (before we could stream movies from the internet), me and my buddies would rent all our favorite movies and watch them all night. Hours later, we would emerge from our marathon, bleary-eyed and in mild shock from drama overload.

People love movies for several reasons. They make us laugh and cry. They make us think and feel. Good movies connect with us.

Gary Simmons, "Hypnotize"
Gary Simmons, “Hypnotize”

When I’m having a conversation with a good listener, something similar happens. I’m able to share my jokes and excitement. I’m able to laugh at myself. I’m able to share my sadness and cry without feeling embarrassed. I’m able to talk through the steps of a complicated project and gain confidence or uncover a missing step. I’m able to discuss my choices in a dilemma. I’m able to connect with my own story and maybe even have an “Aha” moment.

Comparing movies to listening leads to other insights. We all know that special effects and costumes alone do not guarantee a good movie. These things have to serve or enhance the story. If a story is lacking, it cannot be salvaged by cinematic techniques alone.

Similarly, good listening requires but is not guaranteed by the use of listening techniques. If you stare at people and rephrase them without actually caring about their story, people will realize you’re not really listening. You have to care and be interested and let that drive your listening behavior.

If your listening behavior is predictable and formulaic, people will lose interest in speaking with you.

To recap:

1. It’s about the story, making a connection
2. Predictable movies and listening behavior makes us lose interest

Bottom line, listening is as much an art, and as rich and sophisticated as movie-making.

Marc Wong

First published on Marc’s blog, 8 Step Listen, on May 29, 2013. Marc is a listening expert and author of Thank You for Listening: Gain Influence & Improve Relationships, Better Listening Skills in 8 Steps. He first learned about listening when he volunteered at a telephone crisis center more than 20 years ago. He helps individuals and companies to unleash the power of listening.