The Lost Art of Listening

“Secrets” by Randy Elrod

Who listens to you?

Who really listens?

Who strains to hear your soul whispers?

Being listened to means we are taken seriously, that our ideas and feelings are known, and ultimately it means that what we have to say matters.

The essence of good listening is empathy, which can be achieved only by suspending our preoccupation with ourselves and entering into the experience of the other person. Part intuition and part effort, it’s the stuff of human connection. —Dr. Michael Nichols.

Listening is such a basic part of our lives that we take it for granted. And unfortunately, most of us think of ourselves as better listeners than we really are.

Even infants need listening to thrive. The listened-to child grows up relatively secure and whole. The unlistened-to child lacks the understanding that firms self-acceptance and is “bent out of shape” by the wishes and anxieties of others.

The need to be understood is second only to the need for food and shelter.

Parents who listen make their children feel worthwhile and appreciated. Being listened to helps build a strong, secure self, endowing the child with sufficient self-respect to develop his or her own unique talents and ideals and to approach relationships with confidence and tolerance.

Genuine listening means suspending memory, desire, and judgment—and, for a few moments at least, existing for the other person.

Genuine Listening

  • When listening is genuine, the emphasis is on the speaker, not the listener.
  • An empathic response is restrained, largely silent; following, not leading, it encourages the speaker to go deeper into his or her experience.

Counterfeit Listening

  • “That reminds me of the time…” (Translation: “I can top that.”)
  • “Oh, how awful!” (Translation: “You poor, helpless thing. Here’s another fine mess you got yourself into.”)
  • “Well, if I were you…” (Translation: “Stop bothering me with your whining and do something about it.”)
  • “Have you heard the one about…? (Translation: “Never mind what you were saying; your concerns are boring.”)
  • “Don’t feel that way” (Translation: Don’t upset me with your upset.”)

Sensitive Listening

  • Pay attention to what the other person is saying
  • Acknowledge the other person’s feelings
  • Listen without giving an opinion
  • Listen without offering advice
  • Listen without immediately agreeing or disagreeing
  • Notice how the person appears to be feeling—and ask
  • Ask about their day, both before and after
  • Respect the person’s need for quiet times
  • Respect the person’s need to address problems
  • Listen to but don’t push too hard for feelings

Listening is a skill, and like any skill, it can be practiced and improved, but even more, it is the natural outgrowth of an attitude. An attitude of caring and concern for other people.

Listening isn’t a need we have; it’s a gift we give.

Question: Who listens to you best?

This post is primarily derived from an excellent book by Dr. Michael P. Nichols, The Lost Art of Listening, if it was helpful, please share it with your friends by clicking the buttons below.
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The Lost Art of Listening

6 Responses

  1. Awesome!!!!!

    Judy Johnson September 7, 2012 at 15:33 #
    • Thanks, Judy. Hope you are well.

      randy September 19, 2012 at 17:05 #
  2. Good stuff. Thank you for always being a great listener!
    Pat Callahan´s last blog post ..Word Series: Calling

    Pat Callahan September 8, 2012 at 00:24 #
    • Thanks so much, Pat. That is a beautiful compliment coming from you!

      randy September 19, 2012 at 17:06 #
  3. How true. It’s hard learning to listen this way but very rewarding.
    Rosalie Squires´s last blog post ..How much living to fill a life?

    Rosalie Squires September 10, 2012 at 08:15 #
    • Yes, it is. We all need to be heard.

      randy September 19, 2012 at 17:06 #