The Power of “Listening Well”

It is easier to disclose a secret when speaking voluntarily than when asked about it

The basic mission of ninjas is to gather information. Therefore, the most important skill for a ninja was the ability to communicate with people. The phrase, “It is easier to disclose a secret when speaking voluntarily than when asked about it,” means that people tend to provide far more information when they speak on their own accord rather than when they are asked to answer specific questions. The skill of the ninja to gather secrets lay within their ability to get people talking. They did this in several ways.

First, it is essential to have a natural greeting to be a good listener.

It may seem surprising that a ninja would say “hello,” but ninjas had two types of roles: yo-nin(陽忍) and yin-nin(陰忍). The yo-nin were the ninja who disguised themselves and changed their identities to obtain information and spread rumors from conversations with people in public. Yin-nin were the ones who worked in the shadows, sneaked into the enemy base, and acquired information.  The yin-nin are the ones who are generally imagined as the typical ninja. But what we are going to talk about in this column are the yo-nin’s techniques.

You need to listen attentively once you enter a conversation to be an effective listener. In order to make the other person feel comfortable, don’t try to correct his/her mistakes or show off your knowledge. You also need to listen to their complaints, concerns, boasts, etc., and build a relationship of trust by accepting them. Then, you can subtly lead them to the topics you want to ask them about, by giving them the information they might be interested in that you have obtained in advance. By doing so, you can get more information. It is not that you are deceiving the other person, but rather it is a technique to bring out the information that the other person has.

There is a saying that good communicators are good listeners. It is a common saying, but unfortunately, not everyone can implement this technique. Knowing and being able to do it are two different things. Occupations like counselors and hostesses at exclusive clubs (I’ve never been to one, but I’d like to try once!), in my opinion, should be highly regarded as professional communicators. When people listen to us, our trust grows and we feel accepted.


We have one mouth and two ears. The key to a successful relationship is to strike a balance where you listen to the other person at least twice as much as you talk. Slow and steady wins the race. It is through the accumulation of small things like this that you can sneak into people’s hearts.