What Podcast Listening Brings to the Table
Looking for conversation starters? Share what you've learned on podcasts and listen to what family and friends are learning, too.
If you are sitting at the Thanksgiving table this year, you better have something to say about a podcast you've listened to; otherwise, you might be relegated to the kids' table.
Come to think of it, you might even be an outcast there, too. The Kids Podcast Listener Report finds that 46% percent of children ages 6-12 in the U.S. have at some time listened to a podcast. And as of March 2023, 42% of Americans age 12 and older have listened to a podcast in the past month, according to "The Infinite Dial" report by Edison Research. Only 14% of those are 55 and older.
With this in mind, if you are of a certain age, you might want to start listening to podcasts in order to give yourself half a chance of being part of the larger conversation. If you choose to skip the notion of listening to podcasts, you may come off as fairly out of touch. The excuse, "I can't even figure out how to find one" is a sure sign that you are.
You can find informative, educational and entertaining content any time of the day or night, with content of interest to you in immeasurable amounts.
I get it. You're hankering after radio days where you could just switch the box on and turn the dial to find what you're looking for. But, in reality, with traditional radio, you will only find what you're looking for on a specific channel, at a designated time, and with limited content. This is not the case with podcasts. You can find informative, educational and entertaining content any time of the day or night, with content of interest to you in immeasurable amounts.
Something for Everyone
For example, are you fascinated by how one moment can change the trajectory of someone's life? Try Heavyweight. Struggling in your marriage? Listen to Esther Perel's Where Should We Begin? Yearning to hear more pertaining to history? How about Malcom Gladwell's Revisionist History? Feeling like you're not the best grandparent? Get inspiration from a podcast I co-host with my husband, The Grand Life. Or better yet, entertain your grands with The Listening Pond.
You name it, there's something for everyone in the podcast world, right down to the most obscure subject you can imagine. There are at least 30 podcasts about coffee and growing, roasting and grinding beans. All told, there are about 4.2 million podcasts in existence today, with almost half a million episodes published just in the past 90 days.
A word of caution, though. If you are a newbie to podcast listening and have discovered your favorites, feel free to mention them at the Thanksgiving table, but please do not try to recruit listeners. It could be obnoxious to be seated next to someone who evangelizes about The Joe Rogan Experience (which, while polarizing, is the most popular podcast on Spotify) or the hot new true crime podcast, Dark Arenas (think Mike Rowe's "Dirty Jobs" meets NBC's "Dateline").
It is not uncommon to walk away from a conversation with someone and realize they never even asked you a question about yourself or your opinion.
It's not important for you to prove that you are the smartest or most informed person in the room. Here's some food for thought. Instead of just asking the person if they could pass the potatoes, you might ask them what podcasts they are listening to. Then be ready to listen to their answer.
Being a Better Listener
We have, collectively, become terrible listeners. In his book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," Stephen R. Covey writes that "most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." He goes on to suggest, "seek first to understand, then to be understood."
We often work hard to be heard, omitting the "seeking to understand" part. The same could be said of others. It is not uncommon to walk away from a conversation with someone and realize they never even asked you a question about yourself or your opinion.
Most of us are guilty of stuffing dinner table conversation ad nauseam with our own opinions and experiences. This can result in holiday get-togethers that mirror the one on Hulu's comedy-drama series, "The Bear." We think ourselves infinitely more civilized, but the truth is we often leave a family get-together both resentful and resigned never to return.
Perhaps a lighter conversation about a podcast that you particularly enjoy is in order. Whatever the topic or the podcast, episodes are often meant to stimulate civil conversations and not intended for us to start up an argument. Think of each conversation as an appetizer, and don't be too eager to serve up a whole meal.
Don't be fooled by the word "subscribe." Some podcasters have switched to saying "follow" the podcast so that there is no confusion on that point.
Diving Into Podcasts
If you are now convinced that listening to podcasts is the new "what fun movies have you seen lately?" conversation starter, you'll need to know how to access and listen to them. If you have an Apple iPhone, this YouTube video shows you just how to do it by using an app or asking Siri, the digital assistant in your phone, to retrieve and play what you want. Voila! You have become a podcast listener.
For Android device users, there's a version of the video tailored for you.
Most podcast listening happens in cars, so once you have found your favorite podcast and you've committed to listening, you can listen on your phone's speaker (hint: put your device in a cup or cup holder to hear it more clearly). If you have a newish car that pairs with your mobile phone, the touch screen on your dashboard is likely to be the easiest (and safest) way to control the playing of your new favorite podcast.
For those of you who believe that downloading a podcast will cost you money, it probably won't. Most podcasts are free. And don't be fooled by the word "subscribe." Some podcasters have switched to saying "follow" the podcast so that there is no confusion on that point.
Finally, remember to rate and review a podcast you love. You can do that very easily within the app you've used to listen–each one works a bit differently, but here's an example video.
All of this should prepare you to be a stellar guest at your next event, assuming that you actually listen…first to an actual podcast and then to the person sitting next to you.