How to listen really well

How to listen really wellSome time ago I received a newsletter from Danielle LaPorte in my mailbox:

Listening is giving the other person the experience of being heard.
Listening Is not waiting for your turn to talk.
It’s not devising your case in between pauses.
It’s not just about understanding what the other person means, necessarily
And it’s certainly not about agreeing.

Wait a minute… I repeat:

It’s not just about understanding what the other person means, necessarily

I had to really think about it. Because I always thought: listening is about understanding what the other means. You ask clarifying questions, empathize, search for similar personal experiences.

I’ve tried to listen whilst not trying to understand for a few weeks. Really listen to the words. Without wanting to understand. It gave me valuable insights on how to listen really well.

If you really listen and you don’t try to understand, then you stop putting the other person’s words in your framework of perception. If you don’t try to understand what the other means, you stop to interpret. Interpreting means literally translated: translating the story of someone else to your perception, to your experiences, to your frame of thinking. You thus give meaning to what you hear.

According to some philosophers, it is not possible not to try to understand. I think it is possible to not try to understand, perhaps even necessary.

Because it does happen that you cannot make the translation. It’s sometimes not possible to translate the story you hear to your framework of experiences and thoughts. There are absolutely no words for in your world, or framework.

When people can’t translate the story to their own frame of reference they often reject or ignore the story. And then connecting conflicting views or is really difficult, if not impossible.

But you might wonder if you should never come to the point of understanding. Do you always have to listen this way?

I think that the time will have to come that you need to understand the other person’s story and give meaning to it. Otherwise, communication will be very difficult. But really listening without trying to understand is the step before trying to understand.

How to listen to the tones in a conversationSpend a while really listening.

Let the words come in and do nothing. Don’t respond, don’t ask any clarifying questions, try not empathize, don’t look for similar experiences.

Accept that you are not going to place it in your frame of reference.

Let the words you hear sink in. For a few hours or even a few days.

You will see that you will process what you hear differently, then when you want to understand and grasp it. And you’ll probably understand it even better 🙂


Do you want to practice listening in discussions and becoming more persuasive? Check when I’m giving the Environmental Discussions Workshop here _______________________________________________________________________________

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