The Art of Listening

The Art of Listening

Why we need it now more than ever.

I hear you – those 3 words are the most important first milestone anyone seeking to heal or grow needs to move forward in their life.

We Humans are a gregarious lot and by nature we are dependent on meaningful contact with others, it really is as basic as that.

We share our stories, experiences and points of view not just for the sake of it, but as a means to come together, cement our bonds, work out problems, explore ideas, live in harmony and to heal from hurtful experiences. Being heard is a basic human need. When we are not heard it creates distress and depending on the magnitude of what we need to get out, the distress varies in severity from feeling slightly miffed to serious mental and emotional problems. The great disconnect begins and the rot sets in.

We live in a time where everyone is busy and our senses are stimulated almost 24/7.  As much as Social Media and modern technology has made it easy to stay in touch with each other it has also created massive challenges.  Receiving dozens of likes on a social media post for example is all very well but it can’t fill that need for connection, leaving emptiness where we need human warmth.   Mix this with the desensitisation that comes from constant over stimulation and you have the perfect storm for being unheard.  Everyone is shouting but nobody gets heard or listens in the true sense of the word.

And so the experiences we have that shape who we are as a person often remain unrecognised, unacknowledged and unappreciated, not because we don’t speak, but because we are unheard.

bla bla bla, everyone is talking but nobody listens


So what do we need first and foremost to fulfill this human need?

Someone who understands and is good at the art of meaningful listening.

“The Great Humanistic Philosopher Erich Fromm defines the art of good listening in a nutshell

  1. The basic rule for practicing this art is the complete concentration of the listener. 
  2.  Nothing of importance must be on his mind, he must be optimally free from anxiety as well as from greed.
  3. He must possess a freely-working imagination which is sufficiently concrete to be expressed in words.
  4. He must be endowed with a capacity for empathy with another person and strong enough to feel the experience of the other as if it were his own. 
  1. The condition for such empathy is a crucial facet of the capacity for love. To understand another means to love them — not in the erotic sense but in the sense of reaching out to them and of overcoming the fear of losing oneself.
  2.  Understanding and loving are inseparable. If they are separate, it is a cerebral process and the door to essential understanding remains closed.” 


A good listener then is:

Someone, who will listen attentively, giving you their undivided attention.

Someone who will listen without judgement, from a place of love and compassion.

Someone who will listen not with the aim to merely respond from their own point of view, but willing to hold space for you, to truly hear you.

Someone with the emotional readiness and imagination to listen and hear you with empathy and feeling.

Someone who will put their intellect aside for you, willing to let go of analytical thought processes, staying in touch with their humanity in order to honour yours.

Someone who will risk connecting with you on a human level through understanding and love.

 But there is more…

Being a good listener also means we have to fulfill our own need of being heard, sharing our own experiences with honesty and integrity, for the sake of being heard without ulterior motive such as to manipulate others.

 For many people finding a good listener is a complicated matter.

Some people feel that the things that are gnawing at their soul are so unspeakable, they would cause others to be repulsed, shame and guilt holding them back. And yet others feel that what causes them such distress is so trivial that they would be thought of as silly or stupid, fearing to be ridiculed. And others simply cannot even put their finger on what it is that causes them to feel the way they do, fearing that they would be labelled a moaner or complainer they remain silent and suffer. Others simply fear to be misunderstood in this world by their fellow men.

….just for a moment, imagine a world truly connected where every man, woman and child was a good listener, just imagine a world where everybody was truly heard.  What a world this would be.

It’s good to talk…meaningfully.

Erich Fromm, Humanistic Philosopher b.1900 - d. 1980

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