Listen Up.

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A friend (and one of my favorite people) recently started following this blog. He’s a teenager, so there’s quite a bit on here that he won’t care about. He doesn’t need my two cents on the politics of working from home, for example. Or the details of my ongoing campaign to get John to eat food. But now that I know he might be reading this, I’m thinking about whether there’s anything I can share that might apply.

This boy is at an age where he is just becoming a guy. You know what I mean, right? A guy – that mysterious and frustrating species that exists between the ages of 13 and 23. I’ve known good ones and bad ones, and I have pretty strong opinions about which is which. To be a good guy, use nice manners. Respect other people’s privacy. Don’t act like a jerk just because your friends are watching. Don’t unnecessarily hurt anyone’s feelings. But this guy already knows all that. So I’ll share one piece of advice that might actually be a new one. Reader, try this: ask questions, and listen to the answers.

I think you’d be surprised how few people do this – especially (no offense) guys. We all like to talk about ourselves – that’s human nature. And most people are happy to answer questions. But what if you turn it around? Fewer people take the initiative to ask questions. And many fewer people actually take the time to actively listen to the answers, especially at your age.

There are so many reasons to get into this habit. For one thing, it’s just good manners. For another, you’ll learn a lot more from your teachers and coaches. You’ll be a better friend to your friends. Someday you’ll be better at work, and you’ll be a damn good husband. And for now, you’ll impress the heck out of the girls you know. (Twenty years ago I knew a boy named Ian who was a noticeably good listener. I haven’t spoken to him since, but I still remember it. Listening makes a big impression!)

l think you may also find that when you’re interested, things become more interesting. Most people can be fascinating, if you take the time to find out about them. Any topic can surprise you. The more you know, the more you’ll want to learn, so don’t let yourself be bored. I have tested this theory with John and dinosaurs, and I’m convinced that it holds up. Even if you have to fake being interested at first, just ask questions. See where it takes you.

I think you already do this – you asked me some questions this weekend. I have the utmost confidence that you’re already growing up to be a really great guy. Maybe it’s in the genes.

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