In the social media age we have more communications technology than ever before, so we ought to be communicating better than ever before, right? Wrong. We’re not. It can often feel like everyone on earth is doing nothing more than yelling into the void, and that no one’s actually engaging, relating, or connecting any more. Engagement has become a simple measure of the number of likes, shares, clicks, and replies a message gets. No one much cares about the content of those replies any more. Good conversation, it seems, is a lost art.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be found. There is a path back to meaningful human interaction, and the first step on that path is to start asking the right questions. Now, by that we don’t mean that there is some magical set of questions that can turn every conversation into a deep, enriching one. We mean that when people are seeking to improve their conversation skills, they’re asking Google the wrong questions. We know because we checked Google Trends.

Confession time: the title of this blog post is a trick, a trap, an example of mild clickbait. We’ve called it that because we know that lots of people search for ways to start conversations, things to talk about and yes, questions to ask. But nobody searches “how to listen”. Or if they do, they want to know how to listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks. They don’t want to know how to listen to people, to their family, friends, and co-workers.

This is sad because, and here’s the big secret... the key to having better conversations is learning to listen.

Take a quick browse through your social media platform of choice. It doesn’t matter which one; you’ll always see the same pattern playing out. Everyone wants to be heard, and no one wants to listen. There’s a huge imbalance, and that’s why beneath all the forced smiles and “blessed” status updates, everyone on social media is anxious and angry. The first step towards being heard is to start listening to others, and here’s how:

Whenever someone tells you something - whether it’s in person, on a call, in a direct message, or in a public post - pay attention to how whatever they’re communicating about makes them feel. Then, in your response, repeat back to them the feelings they just expressed. Not the content of what they said, but the underlying feelings. Congratulations! You just listened.

It doesn’t even matter if you understood the feelings they were expressing 100% accurately, the very fact that you tried to engage with their emotions will mean a lot to them. Try it! It feels great. Meet up with a friend or co-worker, set the rules of the conversation according to the pattern outlined above, and find out how good it feels to be heard.

For those who still really want to know how to start conversations, there is a simple adjustment to a common conversation starter that can make a huge difference to the quality of conversations. Instead of saying, “How are you?” say “How are you feeling?” Adding that extra word transforms a mere formality into a question that actually matters. You’ll be amazed at the difference it can make.

This listening skill is equally effective in any kind of conversation, whether it’s taking place in person, on the phone, or via a communication app. In fact, in many ways it’s easier to practice good listening using an app, because you can re-read and re-listen to messages to get a better understanding of what was being expressed, rather than just going with your initial reaction. Woice automatically transcribes all audio messages and recordings, and logs all of your conversations for reference. However you use Woice - for chats, meetings, live calls, or asynchronous communication - it provides all the tools you need to listen better and have better conversations.