Listen and Learn

” Really listening and suspending one’s own judgment is necessary in order to understand other people on their own terms… This is a process that requires trust and builds trust.”

~  Mary Field Belenky

Listen and Learn

By Loren Ekroth, Ph.D.

“Listening:  The Forgotten Skill” is not only a book title (1995).  It’s the truth.

If you want to leverage your interpersonal skills, set aside one normal weekday and do these 2 things:

  1. Observe your habitual tendencies to listen (or not listen because you’re talking or your attention is elsewhere,)  and
  2. Give the gift of attentive listening to others on this day.  Let it be OK not to share your opinion or point of view; not to argue; not to interrupt; not to say “Me, too.”

Dozens of experts agree that listening is one of the most underrated and least practiced conversation skills. (Including me.)

A few days ago we observed the birthday of that great American, Henry David Thoreau.  Here’s what he wrote about being listened to:

“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when someone asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”

~  Henry David Thoreau, 1817 – 1862

We’ve also been honoring the 50th anniversary of the classic novel by Harper Lee, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”  Here’s what a character in that powerful book had to say about listening:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”

~  (Lawyer Atticus Finch speaking)

Finally, since the conversation doesn’t have to be all about me or you, we can make our priority #1 an attempt to understand the other person.  As Stephen Covey wrote in his modern classic, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,”

“Seek first to understand and then to be understood.”

So, on the day you choose to increase your awareness of and skill in listening,

Make no judgments
Don’t interrupt others
Don’t finish another’s sentences

Then people will feel much safer and more comfortable.

From “Better Conversations” newsletter by Loren Ekroth. Reprinted with permission. Copyright 2011. All Rights reserved. Dr.  Ekroth is creator of information products to improve conversation, such as “Small Talk Success Tips” and a free newsletter at

Coaching Call To Action

For all of you multi-taskers (me included), I challenge you to put everything aside and truly listen when you are in conversation with people this week.  What do you notice?