The Lost Art of Listening
1 "Nothing hurts more than the sense that the people we care about aren't really listening. We never outgrow the need to have our feelings known. That's why a sympathetic ear is such a powerful force in human relationships—and why the failure to be understood is so painful."
• This focuses on feelings
, but I think that thoughts
may be important as well. However, this does invert my usual focus of "thoughts first, then feelings".
1 "much of the conflict in our lives can be explained by one simple fact: people don't really listen to each other."
2 "We've gained unparalleled access to information and lost something very important. We've lost the habit of concentrating our attention."
2 "Is it this [busy, rushed] way of life that's made us forget how to listen? Perhaps. But maybe the modern approach to life is the effect rather than the cause of the decline of meaningful discourse."
3 "We hurt each other unnecessarily by failing to acknowledge what the other one has to say. Whatever the arena, our hearts experience the failure to be heard as an absence of concern."
3 "But the sustained attention of careful listening—that takes strenuous and unselfish restraint. To listen well we must forget ourselves and submit to the other person's need for attention." <<<
3 "Unfortunately, when we fail to get through to each other, we have a tendency to fall back on blaming." <<<
3 "Most failures of understanding are not due to self-absorption or bad faith, but to our own need to say something. We tend to react to what is said, rather than concentrating on what the other person is trying to express. Emotional reactions make us respond without thinking and crowd out understanding and concern. Each of us has characteristic ways of reacting defensively. We don't hear what's said because something in the speaker's message triggers hurt, anger, or impatience." < Skippy?
5 "for many people, it's a lack of sympathetic attention, not stress or overwork, that accounts for the loss of enthusiasm and optimism in their lives." <<<<< David Levy?
6 "The gift of our attention and understanding makes other people feel validated and valued. Our ability to listen, and listen well, creates goodwill that comes back to us. But effective listening is also the best way to enjoy others, to learn from them, and to make them interesting to be with."
10 "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." <<<<<<
10 "A listeners empathy—grasping what we're trying to say and showing it
—builds a bond of understanding, linking us to someone who hears us and cares, and thus confirms that our feelings are legitimate and recognizable. The power of empathic listening is the power to transform relationships. When deeply felt but unexpressed feelings take shape in words that are voiced and come back clarified, the result is a reassuring sense of being understood and a grateful feeling of shared humanness with the one who understands."
10 "In the presence of a receptive listener, we are able to clarify what we thick and discover what we feel."
11 We spend a lot of time on small things, like worrying about an unreturned phone call—unless people have an infinite amount of space for worrying about things, this means they aren't expending mental energy on bigger things. It's like a game we get stuck playing, that keeps us from focusing on what really matters.
11 "Listening is so basic that we take it for granted. Unfortunately, most of us think of ourselves as better listeners than we really are."
12 "competitive conversationalist"
14 "To listen is to pay attention, take an interest, care about, take to heart, validate, acknowledge, be moved... appreciate." <<< This is what Dawkins doesn't do with religion, and what folks in the apologetics threads occasionally don't do. (In general, I think they do a pretty good job.)
14 "Talking and listening creates a unique relationship in which speaker and listener are constantly switching roles, both jockeying for position, each one's needs competing with the other's. If you doubt it, try telling someone about a problem you're having and see how long it takes before he interrupts to describe a similar experience of his own to offer advice—advice that may suit him more than it does you."
15 "By momentarily stepping out of his or her own frame of reference and into ours, the person who really listens acknowledges and affirms us." <<< How often do people really step out of their frames of reference? This is VERY interesting to me. The author treats this as an expectation, but I'm not sure how often it is acted upon! Especially in the SA debate.
16 "Being listened to does help us grow up feeling secure; but, contrary to what some people would like to believe, we never become whole and complete, finished products, like a statue or a monument. On the contrary ,like any living thing, human beings require nourishment not only to grow up strong but also to maintain their strength and vitality. Listening nourishes our sense of worth."
18 "A good listener is a witness, not a judge of your experience."
19 "Although none of us likes to see (especially in ourselves) the kind of blatant narcissism that disregards the feelings of others, the truth is, much of the time we're all hopelessly absorbed with ourselves." <<< This is a sad judgment. Are we actually helping anyone else when we are "hopelessly absorbed with ourselves"? Are we conducting this introspective absorption inefficiently
20 Why are we so bad at oversimplifying what is required for people to overcome problems or emotional hurt? Don't we know that those little truisms (e.g. "maybe you should just make more friends") are often utterly useless
? Do we just forget how hard it was to learn the things we are encouraging others to learn? I'm pretty sure this explains one thing: why there are so many psychologists and psychiatrists these days! <<< send to Alex
20 "Reassuring someone isn't the same as listening." <<<<<<
21 How often do we make self-fulfilling prophecies? re: Roxanne and her mother being an "unaccepting person"
22 having someone who doesn't have a stake in defending him/herself can be critical to resolving issues—but perhaps it is better if the peacemaker still wants the same thing that both parties profess to want?
22 Sometimes what is required is for the listener to put aside the thought that he/she is right, and "just listen".
22 "When we learn to hear the unspoken feelings beneath someone's anger or impatience, we discover the power to release the bitterness that keeps people apart. With a little effort, we can hear the hurt behind expressions of hostility, the resentment behind avoidance, and the vulnerability that makes people afraid to speak or truly listen. When we understand the healing power of listening, we can even begin to listen to things that make us uncomfortable."
23 "While it's true that many of us feel used up at the need of the day, it may not be overwork that wears us down, but a lack of understanding in our lives. ... When the quality of our relationships isn't sufficient to maintain our equilibrium and enthusiasm—or when we're not up to making them so—we seek escape from morbid self-consciousness. We seek stimulation, excitement, responsiveness, gratification—the same kinds of feelings that can be had from a heart-to-heart talk with someone we care about." <<< JonW
26 "Listening shapes us; not being heard twists us."
26 "What never gets heard affects more than the difference between the socially shareable and the private; it drives a split between the true self and a false self." <<< doesn't introspection start failing when this happens?
40 "Unshared thoughts diminish us, not only by making us less authentic and less whole, as we've discussed, but also by eating at us. Repression is not like putting something away on the closet shelf and forgetting about it; repression takes a constant expenditure of energy that slowly wears us down."
43 failure to listen often involves emotional cutoff, which is often based on actions of both
parties, not just one
43 "When people don't listen to us, we can't help feeling it's their fault: they're selfish or inconsiderate. (When we
don't listen, it's because we're bored or tired or don't like being talked down to.)"
44 "When people don't say much, it's less likely that they have nothing on their minds than that they don't trust the other person to be willing to hear it. ... The truth is that we become more interesting when we assume interest on the part of our listeners."
45 "The speaker, who has an intention
of what he or she wants to communicate, sends a message
, and that message has an impact
on the listener." (really, this whole page)
47 experiences tend to live up/down to expectation, which can result in low expectations turning into self-fulfilling prophecies
48 "Countertransference: The listener has an emotional reaction that interferes with hearing what's being said. When listeners are in the grip of countertransference, mature responses, like empathy, perspective, humor, wisdom, and concern for the other person, are distorted through the prism of the listener's emotionality." <<< useful for SA apologetics thread
48 Death and the Maiden
—it's easy to focus on the husband's failure to listen, and ignore the failure of the wife to communicate
49 "My response, 'Yes, but ...,' had the effect of making her wrong and me right. Failures of listening often take that form."
49 "If you can express your feelings without trying to compel anything from the other person, you're more likely to get heard—and more likely to hear what the other person is feeling."
50 you, as a listener, aren't always responsible for the other person's feelings (especially the magnitude of them); also remember that God can use us to heal each other's wounds
50 "By the time we emerge from adolescence, most of us have become self-protective. We know where our naked nerve endings are and don't often expose them. We open ourselves selectively and, like any creature with a soft underbelly, retreat form unfriendly encounters." <<< SA
51 "Having an understanding attitude doesn't mean presuming to know a person's thoughts and feelings. It means being open to listening and discovering." <<< SA
52 "We don't usually stop to examine patterns of misunderstanding in our lives because we're stuck in our own point of view." <<< SA: I really don't see much evidence of many people in these threads doing this!
53 "The fixed-character position assumes that it's hard for people to change. But you don't change relationships by changing other people. You change patterns of relating by changing yourself in relation to them." <<< perhaps include in email to Mom? This is quite a profound statement in terms of how to change other people: change yourself! This could also be used in SA: to change an endless cycle, change what you do yourself, don't attempt to change other people. (self-fulfilling prophecy)
53 "We are not victims—we are participants, in a real way, and the consequences of our participation are profound."
53 "Earlier I said that listening is a two-person process, but even that is oversimplified. Actually even an uncomplicated communication has several components: the listener, the speaker, the message, various implicit messages, the context, and, because the process doesn't flow one way from speaker to listener, the listener's response. Even a brief consideration of these elements in the listening process reveals more reasons for misunderstanding that simply bad faith on the part of the listener." <<< SA
54 talks about being indirect—which I would argue is explicitly condemned by "let your yes be yes and your no, no"
55 "Like every listener, he measured the intentions of other speakers by what they said—or what he heard—and asked that they measure him by what he meant to say." <<< Blatant hypocrisy. Can people really be said to be innocent when they do this? Can they really be said to have developed this double-standard ignorantly? I suppose
they could learn it from other people. Perhaps the question also needs to be asked, did they ever try to reject this hypocrisy and get hurt too much to persist in said rejection?
57 implied messages seem to cause so much hurt—why do we do them? Yes, it's nice to not have to spell everything out to someone who knows you well, but why do we blame people for failing to read our minds? <<<<<<
57 why do we grow up to mask our emotions? I can see some merit in sometimes masking/dulling/selectively expressing emotion, but isn't a lot of what we learn when we are young, the art of deception
, in large part due to the cold-heartedness of many people in real life? Implicit messages seem to require sophisticated games to decode, combined with evil plausible deniability. These seem to be weapons of the enemy! <<<<<<
57 "Much of communication is implicit and—when people are on the same wavelength—decoded automatically. Often, however, what's implicit—what we take for granted—isn't obvious to everyone. Much misunderstanding could be cleared up if we learned to do two things: appreciate the other person's perspective and clarify what remains implicit." <<< SA
58 "Fishing for understanding at the wrong time is like trying to catch a trout in the noonday sun."
59 "Memories of misunderstanding and distraction cling to some places like the smell of wet dog."
59 "Conversation in various settings is governed by unwritten rules, some of which are obvious (to most people)." <<< and what about the people to which they are not obvious? Why is it necessarily the fault of those people?