Healthy Listening

Community Respect Project


Listening, Using All You Got!

I heard a person once define listening as “actively seeking to understand another person.” In looking at the key words, four seem to stick out: Actively implying that listening is not merely waiting for the opportunity to talk but getting involved. Involved in what, “seeking.” Seeking what to understand – the other person. If being quiet were the only criteria then the best listeners around would be dead people, sleeping people and those in a coma.

In more than four decades of work- ing with people in a professional set- ting, working with couples, individuals and families, ineffective listening is usually at the root of the dysfunction.

In working with couples, when we say, “what is the problem that brought you in today?” most will reply “com- munication” as the primary issue when what they really mean is “listening.” That lack of effective listening leads to a failure to understand their partner thus “assuming” rather than “connecting.”

While human relationships involve multiple issues and dynamics, it is ineffective listening that will lead to a closed door on resolution. Author Steven Covey has a great quote on this point saying, “seek first to understand and then to be understood.”

James, another author who wrote in the first century also said “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Think how much the world could change by following those two simple steps. The most successful counselors, teachers and consultants follow these two rules and as a result can truly help not merely advise.

Effective listening saves time, trouble and relationships. So, how does one become a more effective listener? Here are a few steps to get you started on your “power listener” journey. While not the entire formula and more extensive training is available these points will give you a foundation to strongly move forward in your connection with others.

  1. Want to listen. You can take all the courses, read all the books and even watch two dozen YouTube videos, but if you do not want to listen and really understand, you will never develop effective listening
  2. Pay attention fully. That means eye contact and eliminating distractions. It is important to be and putting all of your senses into fully understanding the individual sending the Effective listening involves more than just your ears. Be fully present during the interaction. Limit technology presence as much as possible.
  3. Use positive body That means an open, inviting, and relaxed posture. Use gestures that invite rather than close off connection.
  4. Hold your That means reserving judgment, not assuming and not interrupting. Look beyond the words and truly “seek to understand” during this time. It is important to keep an open mind. Listening does not mean you have to agree, just that you are moving toward a greater understanding.
  5. Ask questions to clarify and further understand, presenting openly and Many will use this time to play a game of “gotcha” which will seldom lead to a desired outcome. Ask only to clarify, confirm and to understand. Giving solutions are not helpful at this point.
  6. React or better yet respond! If you truly understood and the person feels truly understood, they will be more than willing now to listen to you.
  7. When you respond after connecting, others will be more able to listen to you as well. Use positive, encouraging and understanding words.

Another author Paul said it well when he wrote: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

As mentioned earlier, listening is a complex process and understanding even more difficult. But no time like the present to begin these simple steps. Try it, you’ll like it and so will the other people in your life. Make the world better one person at a time.

The long-term vision here is that every street cop and every community leader in a neighborhood will be able to work together



Clinical Director and CEO | EmPower Comprehensive Treatment Center, Rochester, MN
507-292-1379 |
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