Book Review: Listen Simply
I’ll start this review from a story from my coaching training. One fellow was repeatedly frustrated by the simplicity of the whole coaching process. He said multiple times: “If people just kept talking with each other, this whole ‘coaching thing’ would have been unnecessary!”
He was almost right. If people kept talking with each other – and listened simply – coaches would have become unemployed. Just keeping the communication lines open is not enough. True listening must happen as well.
Most people have never truly been heard.”
I would add: in this time and age. I’m old enough to remember the world without the Internet and smartphones. Then, we had the time, and willingness, to just be with each other and talk. Listen, discuss, ponder, reflect.
And what’s the point of talking, if you aren’t heard?! Then, it’s just a useless effort.
In this time and age, above-mentioned skills are almost forgotten. Bombarded by a zillion impulses from multiple sources, we are constantly distracted and in a hurry.
Most people don’t know how to listen to themselves.”
If we cannot even hear ourselves, how can we hear others?!
The author of Listen Simply, Jacob Coldwell, is absolutely right:
The ability to communicate has been intensely promoted, but the practice of communication has been lost, or — better said — ignored.
“Listen Simply” is one of the most profound books I’ve ever read. It’s a true masterpiece. However, my nitpicking self found a single tiny CON even in this awesome book.
The author said:
Listening isn’t a practice… unlike the skills above associated with these examples.”
Yes, that’s true. But with practice, your listening can get better because that’s the human nature. Unless your biochemistry is somehow totally screwed, practice will make you better at whatever you practice. This is pure biology – neural paths and myelin in your brain.
At one passage, Jacob mentions other common practices of being a human: running, learning, speaking… Running isn’t a practice as well, but you are getting better at it with practice.
Now, it’s time for the awesome
Jacob is a great writer. This is a nonfiction book, which is not a parable. However, sometimes it reads almost like poetry. The best word to describe his writing style is “profound.”
His style reminds me a lot the style of Jim Rohn: simple and profound. You cannot help but pause and think.
Just a few samples which penetrated my awareness deeply:
People communicate to be heard so that they can be known.”
Expectations increase the greater we know each other.”
You can’t both win and listen.”
The nature of the mind is to chatter and wander.”
Resemblance to Jim Rohn is even more striking when I think of the Wisdom part of Jim’s “Cultivating the Unshakable Character.” Rohn spent a good fifteen minutes talking about wisdom, but never providing its definition. In similar fashion, Jacob provides a lot of descriptions for simple listening, but in the end, he never definitely says what it is or how to do it. He alludes and teaches, but he doesn’t force anything on the reader.
Listening simply is so simple that it is either obvious, or you won’t get it, no matter how many definitions you will read. And in my humble opinion, Jacob writes in a way, you will get it. That’s an amazing writing skill.
By the way, I have 90 highlights from this short book.
The author goes at great lengths to explain all the communication fallacies we experience. This sentence summarizes it best:
All listening failures fall beneath the umbrella of impatience, which leads to annoyance, and so down it goes.”
I agree 100% with Jacob: to listen simply, you need to subtract everything but listening. Leave everything else, let go of it, and you are in front of the other person and listen. Let go of your ego, of your wit, of all the distractions, of your hopes and expectations, of thinking of you and how you are perceived… and you are then listening simply.
I guess, more than half of “Listen Simply” talks about what listening is NOT, and what you need to let go to be able to truly listen.
3. Simple Listening.
Trying to describe what Simple Listening is, reminds me of trying to explain the nature of God – you can talk for hours about His different qualities, but still not give the full picture.
I highlighted multiple passages in Listen Simply, which explain different qualities and each time the description varies slightly. Yet, thanks to them all, you can picture what it is… kind of.
Simple listening by practicality is a giving. It’s “paying attention” and a “surrender of time” for the benefit of the speaker.”
Simple listening happens when we focus on the speaker. A speaker wants to connect with someone.”
In simple listening, the only “success” you, the listener, can achieve is being able to successfully give away what you have to give, which is giving up the predetermined result you might want to have in the communication exchange.”
Simple listening is a gift with no strings attached.”
Simple listening works because it connects people.”
The purpose of simple listening is to help another person clarify what is going on in their own mind.”
Simple listening is a gift you give to someone, and it’s a gift that costs you something to give.”
What is amazing about simple listening is that you don’t need a formula. You listen simply by deciding to do so. You listen simply by deciding to make yourself available to do so.”
4. Fourth Wall.
This book provides a special experience if you are a coach. I am, and I cannot appreciate enough how Jacob translated a coaching experience into a life experience – for “normal” people. If you are a coach, you cannot miss this book. And you will forever have a way to explain what you are doing to your close ones and friends. Instead of trying to explain – in vain! – just give them a copy of Listen Simply.
If you are no coach and have no clue what I’m blabbering here, don’t worry. Like in any proper work of art, you won’t see the 4th wall, and you still can change your life – if you practice listening simple.
You may doubt the book’s message. It cannot be so simple, can it? Jacob Coldwell says in this book:
I’ve seen years of pain dissipate in one good conversation.”
I definitely believe him. I’ve seen literally magical outputs from one good conversation. Ha! Sometimes, I didn’t anticipate the outputs, and yet the magical outputs still materialized. Can you believe that a man can be ‘programmed’ to sleep just four hours a night to find some time for self-care – within a 30-minute conversation?
This is just one of many incredible byproducts of a coaching conversation I witnessed.
Listening simply has an incredible power. A power you can tap into because it is one of the practices of being a human. You can do it as you can think, run, or speak.
Do yourself a favor, buy this book and tap into this power. Your relationships, and your life, will change for better and for good, I promise.