As an introvert, I don’t just listen to your words. I listen to your use of words, your tone of voice, your body movements, your eyes, and your subtle facial expression. I interpret your silences. I can hear everything you don’t say in words. You’ll always learn more from listening than you will from talking.
There is more to listening that sitting there silently. Your body language can bring the speaker to opening up more or closing down. For example, never cross your arms when listening to someone.
In order to listen, you need to keep your assumptions to null. Ask instead of telling how the other person is feeling. Instead of saying: “You must be sad.” Ask: “How does that make you feel.” This way the person talking won’t get frustrated if you get the emotion wrong and will also feel that you are actually interested and listening in what they have to say.
Listen, observe, connect with the emotion, and experience how real it is to the other person, which should in turn make it real to you.
Listening is also important for activism. Staying quiet doesn’t mean tuning out. It means taking the time to carefully listen to someone else’s experience and learning from them. Keeping quiet can help bolster the voices of oppressed people speaking on that issue.