What Does it Mean to “Listen”

Everyday, thousands of relationships are falling apart and individuals jumping into the deep end because of a certain commodity. Perhaps, more specifically, it’s the lack of it.

This commodity is all about having the ability and the capacity to Listen to another party.

Many people seem to have a skewed understanding of what it means to “Listen” . Many wrongly equate the ability “hear” with the ability to Listen

That cannot be further away from the truth.

The ability to hear comes from one’s natural ability to detect sound. It is a physical ability that comes naturally for most of us.

However, the ability to listen is really a skill. It’s is a learned ability that has to be inculcated and nurtured, for ALL of us.

Obviously, it doesn’t take too much effort to hear. Yet, effective listening takes much time and effort on the part of the listener. Naturally, the ability to listen is held in much higher regard as compared to the ability to hear.

So what does it mean to listen, or be listened to?

The Emotional Harbor
Living in a fast-paced, information driven society and economy, the value of listening seemed to have been lost on many of us, as we go about demanding solutions and remedies to problems that arise from our problems at work and home.

Yet, have you realised that people aren’t really seeking solutions or remedies to their predicaments or frustrations at work and at home and relationships? They want what you and I want… an ear to gripe too, and heart to temporarily house their pains and innermost emotions without fear of judgment or reprisal.

A Listening Ear is really an emotional harbor where people come to rest, dump off their emotional sh*t, refill on emotional fuel before they return to sail amidst the choppy seas.

So what does it take to be an Effective Listener?

Well, there are lots of ways actually. Here are some of my personal suggestions on becoming a better listener:

1. Shut Up when the Speaker is Talking

I’ve noted that we’re all interested in the things that interest us. *Duh!*

Yet, at the end of the day, your wife/partner/son/daughter/mother/father/friend went to you because of their need to unload the burden that’s weighing off their shoulders. They are less interested in hearing your story as they are more interested in having you hear their’s!

Refrain from sharing your solutions (unless you’re asked/begged to)!

2. Pay Full Attention to the Speaker

“You’re rubbish! Absolute trash!” “You are insignificant in my sights and my company/department will do well to fire you and have someone take over your job the following day!”

Tell me… if your boss/supervisor were to say to you one day… how would you feel? Granted it, MOST of them wouldn’t say that. Yet, don’t you feel that that’s the feeling we sometimes get when we’re at work?

It’s negative vibes like these that get to us. It’s things like these that drain us of emotion energy. And it’s because of things like these that people seek a listening ear – to garner emotional support, reassurance… and ultimatelyVALUE.

We’ve all had enough with our demeaning bosses. Now, we want to feel human again… to feel important. And the Listener, the one who’s going to spend time and effort listening… is the one who’s the power to restore that value!

3. Do not judge the Speaker

The speaker/sharer is here to dump their negative load at your dock. Though they may be intensely negative or uncomfortable for the speaker/sharer, they are nonetheless emotional information. These emotional information are what makes us human, more than the words, the knowledge that we learned and the culture that we’ve been conditioned to adhere to.

Simply said, our emotions are what defines us as human beings. And they hold the key to our strengths, and vulnerabilities.

Nobody enjoys feeling weak. Even more so, none of us want to feel weaker than we already are.

Yet, sharers really run the risk feeling weaker and even more insecure than they already are when they share their innermost secrets and feelings with a person who has the audacity to enforce his or her high and mighty values on another.

4. Take a walk in the Speakers’ Sandals

One of the best ways to avoid judging someone else is to “take a walk in the sharer’s sandals”. Very often, we’ve the tendency to share and give our opinions or recommendations about “what-would-I-have-done-if-I-were-you”.

Yet do you realise that many of us might have done exactly the same thing given the same limitations, resources and circumstances?

We aren’t so critical then are we?

5. Probe to Understand Better

There are times when it’s hard to follow the speaker’s ideas and the reasons behind his/her motivation in certain circumstances.

Now here’s the time to “speak”. Ask questions for clarification to get a clearer picture of the entire event.

Understanding a speaker’s motivations and reasons for their actions do help us understand the circumstances better in our effort to empathize better.


We all know that we aren’t perfect beings. Yet, I believe that many of us also subscribe to the well used notion of “practise makes perfect” and that it is people’s innate desire to better themselves, to make the right decisions.

Yet, we often get frustrated because things don’t go our way.

When things like these happen, all we want is that “supportive ear” to help us stand and get on our way.

Wouldn’t you like to be amongst that elusive few who’re capable of lending hope and inspiration without the need of saying very much at all?

Related Posts:
It’s all About You

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