The Art of Listening

I’ve often wondered recently, whether listening is a lost art. As a culture, we are so ready to give our advice and opinions that we seem to have forgotten how important it can be to listen.

According to Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., quoted in Psychology Today, there are three steps to becoming a good listener

  1. Be respectful
  2. Talk less than you listen
  3. Challenge assumptions

She quotes Bernard Ferrari, author of  Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill of All as saying that his partner should be speaking 80% of the time, while he should speak only 20% of the time. What is more, he believes that his 20% should be spent on asking questions, not trying to have his say.

In The Forgotten Art of Listening, Ed Brodbow lists seven ways to listen better


  • Develop the desire to listen.
  • Always let the other person do most of the talking.
  • Don’t interrupt.
  • Learn active listening.
  • Ask for clarification if needed.
  • Get used to ‘listening’ for nonverbal messages – body language.
  • Ask a question…then shut up.


In her article, ‘The Art of Listening’ on her website, Lolly Daskal has some wise words on the subject. She maintains that we all have a need to be heard and goes on to say that

To respond is to react, and to react is not to listen.


The essence of listening is silence.

It is interesting to me that in the silence, we are not only listening to what is said in words, but to what is expressed in body language. If we are desperately trying to have our say, we will miss what is spoken and unspoken. Often, people come to conclusions themselves simply by having the opportunity to speak uninterrupted.

Robert Heller in a book about Stephen Covey, quotes him as saying,

Empathetic listening gets inside another person’s frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the way they see the world, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they feel. (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People)

It is obviously never possible to feel exactly what another person feels in their situation, but it is important to try to understand.

Long ago, the Bible gave us this advice in Proverbs,

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.