Are You Sure You’re Really Listening?

Are You Sure You’re Really Listening? by Susan Ingram

{3:00 minutes to read}

This subject, Listening, is one that is near and dear to my heart. True communication requires meaningful conversation and dialogue between people. The cornerstone of that is Listening.

My title harkens back to another blog I wrote several months ago, entitled “Are You Really Listening?” In that blog, I described the five separate symbols that comprise the Chinese character for the word Listening—the symbols for ears, eyes, mind, heart and undivided attention.

I love this broad and expansive way of looking at the concept of Listening. If we could truly attend to these different aspects of Listening, our conversations and interactions with other people would be very different and much more productive.

Bringing this down to a more pragmatic level, here are some steps we can take in our busy lives to have more constructive conversations that ultimately move toward meaningful resolution of conflict.


 1. We all need to hone our Listening skills. That means focusing our total attention on what the speaker is saying and really hearing them. So many of us are busy preparing our rebuttal before the other person has finished speaking. Guess what—if you’re doing that, you are not attending to what that other person is saying.

 2. We have to understand our own needs as well as those of the other person. To do that, we have to develop greater empathy. This will help us to move beyond our rigid, black-and-white thinking patterns.

 3. Once we let go of our rigid positioning, we can begin to expand our options for resolving conflict. By exploring various possibilities, we can get to a place where each of the parties can benefit. That’s the win-win scenario I’ve spoken of before.

And while you’re implementing the Three Useful Tips, here are two simple techniques that can also be helpful:

  • Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. That means you’re expressing how you think and feel, instead of seeming to attack and criticize the other person. When you do this, your statements become more palatable to the other person.
  • Reflect back or summarize what you think you’ve just heard the other person say. That way, anything that’s been misconstrued can be addressed on the spot.

Remember—true communication requires meaningful conversation and dialogue between people, and the cornerstone of that is Listening.

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