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The Lost Art of Listening

Values-based Listening Skills for More Productive Relationships

My values or your values? No longer do we act as a society on time-tested core values of honesty,  respect and personal responsibility. Today, it seems everyone wants to pick and choose what is important to themselves. Some may say there is nothing wrong with this. However, without a generally accepted set of core values, how can we ever expect to engage in productive dialogues, learn to appreciate opposing points of view, and think first before we react to what someone is saying?

The art of listening is the key. When we learn to listen we develop empathy and compassion for the other person. LISTENING for BLOG


Beyond that, why is good listening so important? For one thing it is the key to developing fresh insights and ideas that fuel one’s intellectual development. Learning how to present our ideas effectively is only half the battle. We need to learn to listen to others who might challenge our thoughts and encourage us to dig deeper into the values we hold dear that inform our communications. 

Stephen Covey writes in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that most people seek first to be understood; they want to get their point across. And in doing so, they may ignore the other person completely, pretend that they’re listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely.

So why does this happen? According to Covey, because most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. You listen to yourself as you prepare in your mind what you are going to say, the questions you are going to ask, etc. You filter everything you hear through your life experiences, your frame of reference. You check what you hear against your autobiography and see how it measures up. And consequently, you decide prematurely what the other person means before he/she finishes communicating. Sound familiar? 

Covey says this occurs because of four things that occur during conversations.

Evaluate. We tend to judge what someone is saying and agree or disagree.

Probe. People tend to ask questions from their own frame of reference.

Advise. You give counsel, advice, and solutions to problems.

Interpret. You analyze others’ motives and behaviors based on your own experiences.

Robin Sharma, a respected expert in Leadership and Personal Mastery, suggests that each of us take just one day to make the decision to listen masterfully. “Don’t interrupt. Don’t rehearse your answer while the other person is speaking. And don’t dare check your email or search for text messages while another human being is sharing their words. Just listen. Just hear. Just be there for that person.”

There is an old tale with an unknown author that goes something like this:

A wise old owl lived in an oak tree,

The more he saw the less he spoke,

The less he spoke the more he heard,

Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?

What a better place the world would be if we all learned to be good listeners.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on May 9, 2018. Visit Steve’s website and sign up for his Newsletter.