The Power of Listening – Part 3/3

The Power of Listening – Part 3/3

by Steve Beckow

(Concluded from Part 2)

Listening as Wisdom

The Chinese word for a wise person, sheng jen, means literally “one who listens.” International mediators Arnold Gerstein and James Reagan stress the importance of listening in their book, Win-Win. Peace activist Joanna Rogers Macy has called listening “the most powerful tool in peacemaking and any other kind of social change work.” (Diane Dreher, The Tao of Inner Peace. New York: Harper, 1990, 243.)

Compassionate Clarity

A key reason for knowing yourself with compassionate clarity is so you can hear another person without your stuff getting in the way. (George Mumford, sports psychologist and meditator, A.G., “Deep Listening,” O Magazine, May 2001, 239.)

Opening the heart

We’re talking about sacrifice here. Listening involves opening your heart, and the heart can get broken very easily. (George Mumford, sports psychologist and meditator, A.G., “Deep Listening,” O Magazine, May 2001, 239.)


There has to be a certain self-control, whereby you’re able to stay open without the layers of opinions, likes, dislikes, and labels. That’s very difficult because you must put all your views and belief systems in abeyance. (George Mumford, sports psychologist and meditator, A.G., “Deep Listening,” O Magazine, May 2001, 239.)


The other person has to be willing to be vulnerable as well, willing to give up something. (George Mumford, sports psychologist and meditator, A.G., “Deep Listening,” O Magazine, May 2001, 239.)

Results of Listening

When people are heard, they feel honored and respected. They can extend caring and courtesy to others who have different points of view. And so a variety of viewpoints and perspectives can be considered. The best decisions are made when this happens. …

When the ideas of people are not heard and they are not included in the decision-making process, they feel that no one cares about them. When children or adults feel cut off and uncared for, they react in hurt and angry ways. Any action that is taken on their behalf will be resnted, if not opposed. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 77.)

Many of us believe that we listen, but it’s not true. Listening, if we did it deeply and fully, would totally transform our lives. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 79.)

Everyone wants to be heard

All any one wants is to be heard, to be cared about and respected. These are universal human concerns. As a husband or wife, we should extend this caring and respect to our partner. As a parent, we should extend it to our children. As a community, we should extend it to all our members: rich or poor, black or white, able-bodied or disabled. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 78.)

Listening cannot be forced

Even when we agree that others should have a voice [in the decisions that affect them], it doesn’t mean that we are willing to listen. And, unless we are willing to listen, what does having a voice mean? What does free speech mean if we are always putting our hands over our ears?

Our society says that everyone has a right to speak, but it cannot make us listen. It cannot insure that we will hear what others say to us or that they will hear what we say to them. Hearing has always been optional. It has always been a matter of choice. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 78-9.)

Hearing others is a form of loving [others]. And love has never been successfully legislated. You cannot make somebody love another person, nor can you make someone listen to another. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 79.)

Listening is not Judging

If judgments come up, remember that you aren’t listening: you’re judging. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 79.)

Listening is not Responding

Don’t respond in any way except to acknowledge that you have heard. If you are responding, you have stopped listening. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 79.)

We Usually Don’t Listen

We think that we hear one another, but we don’t listen very long or very deeply to each other. We are easily distracted by our own thoughts or by events happening in our environment. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 80.)

When we really “hear,” we feel acceptance, compassion, love, respect. We don’t want to give the other person a lecture or try to fix him or her. We just feel good that the person felt safe enough to communicate honestly with us. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 80.)

When we really “hear” another person, we hear ourselves. We know it could be us talking. There is that equality. There is that rapport. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 80.)

Listen to the truth, openly and deeply, without:

Being impatient
Ignoring the other person
Listening to our own thoughts
Playing “broken record”
Playing “twenty questions”
Justifying or

Listener as Mirror

If a person is to get through blocks and phobias, I have to remain calm when they reveal themselves to me. I am like a looking glass in which they judge their acts through observing my response. So if I respond with alarm or disgust, they may feel quite self-conscious and ashamed and be unable to go deeper.

Listening for the Truth

The test of whether listening has been successful is whether release has occurred. Jesus said, the truth will make you free. And telling the truth to a committed listener will also set us free. If one has not experienced release, one has not told some aspect of the truth that must be told. There is more to go.

We’re not listening for games, ulterior motives, the self-serving bias, image management, the dark side or shadow side. We’re listening for the truth and the truth alone. And the test for it is release.

Identify the various messages contained in the speaking and choose which to go with.

Calm, Receptive and Connected

Only by remaining calm, receptive, and connected is the speaker induced to go deeply into the truth.


Feedback is used (1) to confirm our guesses or hunches about what the speaker is saying, and (2) to mirror back the listener’s impressions. Here some useful ways of feeding back:

Sounds/sounds like x
You sound/you sound like x
Looks/looks like x
You look/you look like x
I hear you/your x
I see you/your x
I’d feel x about y; how do you feel?
I’d think x about y; what do you think?
I’d want to x; is that what you want?
I’d feel x; is that how you feel?
What I’m hearing you say is X.

Drawing the Speaker Out

Some useful prompts are:

How do you feel about…?
What do you think about…?
What would you like to do?
I’d feel…; is that how you feel?
I’d think…; is that what you think?
I’d want do…; is that what you want to do?
What would you have done if … occurred?
Tell me more about…?
Can you elaborate on…?
I’m not sure I understand…. Can you give me more details?
I’m curious to know about….
Are you willing to…?
So you’re saying….
So you feel…?
So you think….
So you’re saying….
So what happened for you was….
Is that the whole story?
Tell me about it.
I’d like to hear about it.
I’m not going anywhere.
I’m listening.

Last Point of Agreement

(1) When listening is out of synch and a breakdown occurs, go back to the last point of agreement. Wherever you can agree you last understood each other start again there and continue.

(2) When I encounter resistance from a speaker to a question I’ve proposed, I abandon it and return to the last point of agreement. I keep backing up until I find the path of least resistance. I take the decrease in resistance (or increase in ease) to mean that we are back on the right track, in terms of the speaker wanting to be known.

The same steps can be taken to call up forgiveness in ourselves. When we see that another has invited and won our forgiveness, we too can back up and find the last point of agreement. Both the speaker and the injured party seem quite content just recovering the last point where we agreed, without blame or resentment, and starting again.

Speaking as a Listener

Many people consider effective speaking to be the crown of communicational skills. I consider it to be effective listening.

My job in life is to help the world learn to listen.

Print Friendly