Stories of Men

How ‘really’ listening to someone can help you to become a better man

How ‘really’ listening to someone can help you to become a better man

Have you ever been to a networking event and found yourself bombarded from every angle?

Whether it is a business conference, a trade fair or a work event, these situations offer a great opportunity for meeting like-minded people who you might be able to connect with in the future.

So you enter into dozens of conversations, each time meeting new people, each person giving you new information that you’re desperately trying to remember.

You’re smiling and nodding to show that you’re processing everything they’re saying but then there’s a pause

What’s happened? 

The person that you’re talking to has just asked you a question. You have no idea what it was and you have no idea how to reply. At some point, you now realise, you must’ve zoned out

Have you ever experienced this? It’s something that I’ve experienced on a number of occasions.

I’m not a massive fan of networking events. Meeting a lot of new people can be overwhelming and takes up a lot of energy to the point where I’m absolutely shattered by the time I get home. 

Unfortunately for me, networking events do have their purpose for winning new business and building connections.

So my struggles in this area have encouraged me to reflect on how I can improve and make better use of networking opportunities

What I’ve discovered is that I could be retaining much more and having a much more productive experience if I engage in active listening.

But what is active listening? 

Well, first of all, let’s establish what I would tend to do when I was supposedly listening: that is passive listening.

When I was listening passively, I would give the outward signs of paying attention, you know, the smiling and nodding I was referring to earlier, when deep down what I was really doing was thinking about something else while the other person was talking.

I might’ve been thinking about the massage I had at the weekend, or the workout I was planning on doing that night. Perhaps I was worried about whether I’d dressed smartly enough for the event or maybe I was worried that I’d turned up overdressed.

Most often, I’d be thinking about what it was that I wanted to say next while the other person was still talking. As I discovered, this can be disastrous for communication.

Here’s an example of how not listening can lead to other embarrassing situations. It’s slightly exaggerated but the point is well made.

Back to the real world for a moment, I’ve got a family member in particular (who I won’t name) that eagerly waits for me to finish speaking or interrupts me because he just can’t wait to get his word in. It makes me feel like I’m not being seen and heard. I did it back to him on a few occasions when I was younger (petty, I know) and I could see he didn’t like it.

I think a lot of us as men can often find it difficult to listen to others. I know a mate who grew up in a household that was mainly male dominated: him, his dad, his brother and his mum. The men in the house would verbally spar to get their points across while his poor mum would be lucky to get a word in edge-ways.

But it’s not just about men talking over women. To what extent are we as men even listening to each other? 

Listen to this episode, for example, where a lack of communication between a father and a son almost led to a complete breakdown of their relationship.

So now let’s look at how active listening works.

Listening actively means really paying attention to the person who’s talking. I try to do this by making my conversations more interactive.

One way of doing this is to ask questions. If the person I’m talking to is speaking at length about a particular topic and maybe straying into a topic I’m less interested in, then I start asking them questions about the points I am interested in.

That way I’m showing the person I’m speaking to that I’m genuinely listening and I’m also indicating where my interests lie.

Another thing I try to do is to repeat back or paraphrase what the person I’m talking to has just said to me. Doing this, again, signals that I’ve been listening carefully. It also gives the person an opportunity to correct me if I didn’t get something they said exactly right.

Finally, I try to relate my own experiences to what the person I’m talking to is saying. For example, if he’s talking about how he’s focused on improving his sales figures, I’ll share my own experiences of the same topic or talk about other approaches that I’ve heard about.

Connecting what I’m saying as closely as possible to what the person I’m talking to is saying shows that I’m paying attention and it also helps to make the interaction more engaging for both of us.

I believe that, for communication to be truly effective, it has to operate both ways. If I or the person I’m talking to stays silent for too long, that’s a clear sign that effective communication may not be happening.

One thing that I think we do too much of when we’re talking with others is holding our phone in our hands while we talk. This has got even worse in some ways with those Google Watches that go off every two seconds when someone gets a message.

A mate of mine told me about experiences he had on two separate dates where the conversation was constantly interrupted as the person he was on a date with kept checking her watch. Not a great look (pun intended).

Those sorts of things can sap all of our concentration and are a recipe for disaster as far as being distracted is concerned. On that note, have a read of this article where I shared my experiences of going on a mobile phone/social media detox.

This brings me onto my thoughts about how, as a society, we seem to be getting worse as communicators. We spend so much time sat with our eyes glued to our mobile phones and in front of our computer screens (or on our watches) that we don’t get enough opportunities to practise our communication skills.

And when we do get together, many of us in the UK spend half of our time drunk. It’s hard to communicate meaningfully in that state.

Listen to this episode where Jack talks about the massive role alcohol plays in so many of our social lives.

I think we need to get out there and, soberly, rescue the vital skills that help us connect with each other.

In my view, we need to rediscover how to speak with rather than speak to one another.

I think listening actively is a good start.

But that’s my view. What are your thoughts? 

Do you think we need to improve our communication skills? If so, what do you find helps you to communicate with others more effectively?


Any topics you’d like us to write about in future blog articles? Let us know by writing to team@storiesofmenpodcast.com. We’d love your feedback.

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           PROFESSIONAL
 

Laura is the mix engineer for the Stories of Men podcast. She has a BA in Music from Nottingham University and an Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering from Abbey Road Institute. Alongside working for Our Voices she is a freelance sound designer and technician. Her highlights include sound design for JK Rowling audiobook ‘The Christmas Pig’, and sound effects editing on The Outlaws, on the BBC.

For the Stories of Men podcast, Laura is typically provided with a Voice Over and interview. She then cleans the dialogue, integrates the podcast intro and outros, chooses the music that will add to the storytelling and pacing of the episode, then bring all the elements together in the mix, followed by mastering and then delivering the final edit.

Experience in Industry: 3

                 PERSONAL
 

Favourite Food: Potatoes

Favourite Sport: Wild swimming

Favourite Show: Anything Marvel

Favourite Movie: Anything Marvel

Favourite City: London

Hobby: Music

Favourite Book: Northern Lights

           PROFESSIONAL
 

I’m the community manager at Stories of Men. I spend most of my time focusing on the implementation of our marketing strategy, achieving goals and KPIs, and the rest of the time listening to the amazing stories of our guests. What I love most about working for Stories of men is the impact it has on peoples’ lives. It requires a lot of courage to tell your story out loud so I make sure these stories are heard by as many people as possible.

I was born and raised in Pakistan and I’ve been living in Hungary for over two years now. I have a Master’s degree in Marketing and I live for mastering the art of digital marketing.

Industry experience: 3 Years

                 PERSONAL
 

Favourite Food: Biryani – introduced by the Mughal rulers in the Indian subcontinent; this dish is an absolute delight. Also, can never say no to a good burger – extra cheese!

Favourite Sport: Cricket – I grew up playing and watching cricket with friends and family.

Favourite Show: Stranger Things – I love how an odd group of friends fight against challenges bigger than themselves.

Favourite Movie: Harry Potter – The only movie I can watch over and over again!

Favourite City: Prague – Absolutely love the Baroque and Gothic vibe of this city.

Hobby: Netflix, Travelling, and Eating- I want to try different cuisines from every country once in my lifetime!

Favourite Book: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – A fast-paced thriller that keeps you hooked from the first page to the last.

           PROFESSIONAL
 

I run Fascinate Productions, the production company behind the Stories of Men podcast. I’ve had a wide variety of roles in media, from underwater videography, to live televised sporting events around the world. But since listening to my first audiobook in 2016, I’ve been all about audio and jumped in with two feet. Podcasts are enabling the world to democratise its most valuable information. They’re about spreading messages, and sharing ideas, and it’s my mission to help those holding the knowledge, to distribute it far and wide.

When Alex approached us with the idea of making a short stories podcast, with a big social impact, he got our attention. As the producer of the show, I’ve heard his guests’ highest highs, their lowest lows, and the moments of change that made them who they are – it’s been a privilege helping to craft their most intimate experiences into stories for you to enjoy.

 Experience in Industry: 5 years

                 PERSONAL
 

Favourite Food: Ice cream. It’s just the greatest culinary invention.

Favourite Sport: Rugby. I played from the age of 5 until 26 when a dislocated shoulder put me out of action. Still like to watch now though.

Favourite Show: The 100 – I love those ‘what if humans nearly got wiped out?’ type shows.

Favourite Movie: Gladiator

Favourite City: London. As a country boy from Yorkshire, I never thought I’d enjoy living here.

Hobby: Listening to podcasts while on long walks with my dog Alfie.

Favourite Book: I love to read anything business/startup related… One of the most recent great ones was Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt

          PROFESSIONAL

 

Richard Willan is the CEO of Fascinate productions, a podcast production and promotion company. Before starting Fascinate, he worked an audio engineer, mastering tracks for artists on major and independent labels.

He is an executive producer for ‘Stories of Men’ where he assists with production, creative direction of the show, and marketing strategy.  

 

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: 15 YEARS

                 PERSONAL

 

Favourite Food: I love Indian food – My favourite dish is a Dansak. It’s a rich combination of hot, sweet and sour flavours, made from lamb and lentils.

Favourite Sport: I enjoy watching combat sports like MMA – Isreal Adesanya is my favourite fighter at the moment, due to his Tae Kwon Do base and speed. 

Favourite Show: Succession – an American satirical drama. The character development is incredible, and the writing is top notch. 

Favourite Movie: True Lies. I find it amazing that someone who can’t act (Arni) has so many great films.

Favourite City: London, because it is a melting pot of culture and the music scene is amazing. 

Hobby: Making music, going to gym and eating out. 

Favourite Book:  The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I love the world she created, and the incremental path the characters take into darkness. It’s amazing.

           PROFESSIONAL
 

I am responsible for writing blog articles for the Stories of Men podcast. I have the privilege of listening to fascinating stories on the topics and issues regarding men that are of greatest relevance to our society today. Once I’ve done this, I create articles that provide an overview and description of the conversations in order to help spread them to the widest possible audience. My job is to make these articles as engaging as the conversations themselves.

As an English teacher who has worked with students from all over the world for over 10 years, I have got used to successfully communicating with those from different backgrounds and cultures. This has helped me to appreciate the value of connection across borders and boundaries. It has also helped me to appreciate that we are all able to learn from each other’s experiences.

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: 10 YEARS

                 PERSONAL
 

Favourite Food: Chocolate. It’s an indulgence, I know, but it tastes so good. I particularly enjoy dark chocolate for its richness and smoothness. 

Favourite Sport: Football.Unfortunately, my local team (Nottingham Forest) is not in that top league but I hope that one day it will be.

Favourite Show: The Wire. 

Favourite Movie: The Godfather. 

Favourite City: Reykjavik. I had the pleasure of spending two weeks there a number of years ago and I loved the place for its beauty, culture and calmness. It’s rare that you can be in a capital city and experience genuine space and peace and quiet. There’s also a black sand beach to walk along, although, due to the cold, I wouldn’t recommend bathing in the sea!

Hobby: Watching films. I love films, foreign films, classic films, contemporary films, just all good films.

Favourite Book: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. 

           PROFESSIONAL
I’m the Editor of Stories of men. I craft compelling narratives from the stories of our fantastic guests, editing their interviews and scripting the episodes. I’m a freelance journalist and audio producer from Northern Ireland, currently based in California. I cover social issues, health and gender – with reporting in The Guardian, Vice, NPR, Cosmopolitan and many others. My focus is shining a light on the communities and initiatives that improve people’s lives. I have a background in the nonprofit space, having worked in communications for a mental health charity, as well as an education start-up. I mentor young female writers and sit on the board of an NGO that empowers women in global supply chains. 
 
INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE: 11 YEARS
                 PERSONAL

Favourite Food:  In a word, sandwiches. The possibilities are endless.

Favourite Sport: Show jumping. When I was little I wanted to be a professional horse-rider, and I still get a kick out of watching the pros in action.

Favourite Show: Fleabag: the writing and acting create a thrilling kind of intimacy I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Favourite Movie: Victoria is an incredible German thriller that’s all shot in one take – it’s a real trip. Plus it’s beautifully soundtracked by Nils Frahm.

Favourite City: Very hard to choose, but it’s got to be Barcelona. The food, the pace of life, the winding streets – there’s nowhere else like it. 

Hobby: exploring city streets on my bike – preferably while listening (safely!) to a podcast – is when I’m at my happiest. 

Favourite Book: Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a stunning, utterly unique portrait of womanhood, race, ageing and the principles we choose to live 

           PROFESSIONAL
 
I am the host of Stories of Men. I help to find men that have a powerful voice to share and then I speak to them and help to tease the stories out of them that will have a positive impact on the listener. 
 

While running Swoosh English, an online English school from 2013 – 2021, I had the opportunity to meet men from all walks of life and many of these guys had incredible stories. This inspired me to start ‘Stories of Men’ because I wanted to give these men a platform to share their stories with the world.

I love the detail that people go into and how people craft stories in different ways. My dream and vision for the future would be countless people messaging to tell us how a particular episode has changed their lives!

                 PERSONAL
 

Favourite Food: Avocados – an incredibly delicious fruit that can be used in so many dishes. My favourite is guacamole with nachos!

Favourite Sport: Boxing and football (couldn’t choose one!)

Favourite Show: 2 comedy series: Alan Partridge and The Office (UK version). I just love English humour!

Favourite Movie: Shawshank Redemption: An unbelievable journey full of twists and turns.

Favourite City:  New York – Living there for a year in 2008 changed my life. It made me believe that anything in life was possible if you want something badly enough.

Hobby: Football, boxing, reading, learning Spanish, travelling and watching fascinating conversations on Youtube.

Favourite Book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – a book about an incredible journey.