Thoughts Inspiration Education: The Importance of Listening

Updated: Mar 8


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When we think about how to use words, in which context, which ones, at which time and how, we often forget that the best communication is to have a dialogue. Often, we are so concerned about how to get our message out into the world and reach people (especially when we’re talking online business, but it can also be in a face-to-face interaction or what to write in a flyer to pop through people’s postbox) that we often forget that communication is a two-way street. It is a dialogue, meaning an exchange between two – or more – people.

We don’t want to talk at someone, but with someone. Rather than only forcing your view or message down someone’s throat without regard for their wishes, concerns and the things that matter to them in their lives, we need to cultivate the art of listening more. Don’t listen solely with a view to how to best respond to someone. Listen with the intent to make the other person feel heard, valuable and important enough to you that you are interested in the things that move them, that they are concerned or happy about, the things that matter in their lives, not yours.


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Don’t offer an opinion or judgement, positive or negative alike, until they are done telling you their story. That may sound easier than it actually is. Even by nodding, shaking your head, making a concerned face or using other mimicry and gestures that convey your personal feelings on this, only ask questions to clarify a statement or to get more details for better understanding.

Let me show this to you in two examples.

Bob: He was wearing a jumper that totally did not match his jeans. You should have seen him!

You: (pull sympathetic, slightly cringy face) Oh no, has he no sense of fashion?

Bob: He was wearing a jumper that totally did not match his jeans. You should have seen him!

You: (keeping a straight face) What colour was the jumper and the jeans? How did you feel about it?

Spot the difference? In the first example, you offered your opinion. In this case, you agreed, but you are still transmitting the fact that you are judging. So Bob may subconsciously not be so open to sharing the things with you that really concern him deep down. In the second example, you are merely asking for more information, which shows that you are open and don’t judge. Bob may consciously wish for you to commiserate with him, but deep down, he feels that you are interested, you like to get as many facts as possible before stating a value judgement (if at all) and he will feel that you really listen to him.


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Examples of possible consequences for this are:

You: Hey, Bob, good to meet you. How are you?

Bob: I’m fine, so is the family, thanks. And you?

You: Hey, Bob, good to meet you. How are you?

Bob: I’m fine, I’ve been to my best friend’s bachelor party and had a great time, but now my wife has lost her job and we are worried about the bills. I hope things will work out soon and she’ll find another job. The children are doing great, though, they’ve had a football game the other day and really enjoyed it, even though they didn’t win.

In the first example, Bob is putting up a front and deflecting the question back at you. In the second, he really opens up to you and replies truthfully because he knows you won’t judge him or his family for not being “perfect.”

So what do you do, when you have really listened, Bob has run out of steam and now it is your turn to speak? If he asks for your opinion, then and only then, give it in a way that is as objectively phrased as possible. You can show compassion and empathy without either fuelling someone on to drown in self-pity, gossiping about others or indulging in other negative behaviour. You can offer your opinion when asked but ensure that you don’t phrase it in a way that makes you sound superior and judgemental.

If you stick to these basic rules, you will create openness, trust and authenticity in all your relationships. This can be in business, in your personal life, with friends, family, spouse or children. You’ll be amazed at the level of intimacy and appreciation you can create when you are willing to listen, truly listen without an agenda attached to it.

How does it make you feel when someone really listens to you? How do you feel about them?


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