Season 2,
45 Min

Episode 67: The Art of Listening

September 04, 2017

We think of listening as something that happens naturally. Yet as Stephen Covey has observed, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” In other words, true listening takes work.

In this week’s episode, Clay and Sarah discuss why we should work at being better listeners.


In this episode:

* What’s wrong with the way we typically listen?

* Common obstacles that distract us from truly listening

* Listening vs Hearing (is there a difference)

* How we can become better listeners

* The importance of sound in our lives

* When to stop listening…


Some people are really good listeners.  Others end up doing all the talking in a conversation. We know them when we see them, but what makes a good listener? We might think of someone who is not only silent but who knows how to ask good questions — questions about the most important aspects of our discussion.  We might think of someone who pays attention to more than what is said, and who looks interested in what we are saying.

But how often are we ourselves listening with all our attention on the person speaking? And how often are we guilty of drifting off, of only half-listening, or of thinking more about what we should say next?

Science gives us a minor excuse.  Listening can be hard because we think 3-4x faster than people speak, meaning it is easy to become impatient or have competing internal dialogues going on while we listen.

Yet failure to genuinely listen to another person can have a big effect, not only on our ability to understand what they are trying (and sometimes struggling) to say, but also on the speaker’s ability to express themselves freely.  Psychologists, for instance, have found that a listener’s body language and demonstration of interest in the conversation has a massive impact on what the speaker feels they can say.

So speaking freely, speaking from the heart, is intimately related to how well the other person listens.

Erich Fromm, the German social psychologist famous for his book The Art of Loving, also wrote about the importance of listening. According to Fromm, a listener should give someone their complete concentration, without anything else on their mind.  They should be free of anxiety or greed (i.e. other agendas), and use their imagination to invoke a sense of empathy.  Ultimately, true listening is essential for understanding and, as Fromm argues, understanding and love are inseparable.

The art of deep listening, or ‘listening from the heart’, has been developed by a method of interpersonal communicate called ‘Way of Council’.  Taking inspiration from ancient traditions of council meetings across cultures, Virginia Coyle explains: “In council, the gateway to the Mystery is listening.  We listen in council with more than our ears… we listen increasingly without reaction, without being influenced by long-held thoughts or associations.”

We could wax lyrical (and we do…) about the importance of Sound in our lives and how little attention we often pay to it, focusing on sight instead.

And of course there’s all that stuff we need to stop listening to, our internal critic for one. Destructive people and speakers with their own agenda…

But enough from me.  What do YOU think? Do you consider yourself a good listener? What do you think makes a good listener?


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