Book Review by Taylor Berrett
When it comes to true listening, there may be no better expert on the topic than author Ximena Vengoechea. Vengoechea is a user experience research manager at Pinterest in addition to her work as a columnist at Fast Company. Her role at Pinterest means that she spends her days listening to the people who use the company’s products, as well as those who don’t currently use their products but might in the future.
As a result, Vengoechea has developed a system of bypassing what she calls ‘surface listening,’— the passive listening that only takes in the literal meaning of words without identifying deeper, emotional meaning— to get to empathetic listening, which focuses on identifying the speaker’s personal needs and identifying ways to create a safe space for real and meaningful conversations to take place.
Vengoechea condensed everything she knows into Listen Like You Mean It: Reclaiming the Lost Art of True Connection, an excellent guide for anyone who wants to listen better in their day-to-day life and career.
Not only is her book an inspiring ode to true emotional connection between people and the power it has to transform the world, it’s also a practical guide filled with specific advice. For every paragraph that speaks on the beauty and connection that comes from empathetic listening, there’s another that breaks down strategies for specific instances where empathetic listening matters. She discusses how to approach difficult conversations and broach sensitive topics with the most effective results. She dives deep on the technical aspects of listening, including what she calls ‘ear training’ for conversations— picking up on the subtle variations in pitch, volume, expressions, speaking rhythm, and tone that can tell a listener even more than the speaker’s words can. And she offers exercises that can help each of us assess just how effectively we’re listening in our day-to-day interactions.
Everyone Needs Listening Advice
The best part of Listen Like You Mean It is just how widely applicable it is. We all can benefit from deeper listening in our lives, relationships, careers, and day-to-day interactions with strangers. The result, according to Vengoechea’s convincing writing, is that we’ll be better people, better friends, and better leaders in our career positions overall.
When a master like Vengoechea speaks about listening, your best bet is to take her advice and listen closely yourself.