The lost art of listening
I read all kinds of books — anything that is useful. If it will help me in some area of my life, I consider it worth reading. Recently, I read one of the most beneficial books in a long time called The Lost Art of Listening.
Listening impacts so many areas of our lives because it affects all of our relationships — whether it’s listening to our spouses, our children, friends, associates, or clients. Everyone wants and needs to be listened to.
Over the years I have read some things on listening, and I thought I was a pretty good listener. As I read this book I was blown away! After finishing it, I realized how important this is. I’ve since read three more books on listening and I’m in the process of rereading this one again. I just ordered four more books on the subject. Why? Because it’s so important to listen, and we have the opportunity to do it every day. It has been very humbling to learn how much better of a listener I can become. I also realized how much work this can be with some people who talk and talk.
Listening is certainly a very spiritual and charitable thing to do. More than just about anything, people want to be heard. It really should be taught in every school. There is too much wisdom in this book to cover in a short article, but here are two quotes that might give you a flavor:
“Nothing hurts more than the sense that the people we care about aren’t really listening. We never outgrow the need to have our feelings known.”
“The essence of good listening is empathy, which can be achieved only by suspending our preoccupation with ourselves and entering into the experience of the other person.”
Here are some other points that struck me:
• No “me too-isms.” This is when someone says something, and the should-be listener responds “me too,” then starts talking about their own similar experience.
• Completely forget about yourself and just listen.
• Don’t give advice unless asked.
• Don’t agree or disagree.
• This is always good advice: Shut up and listen.
First published in 1995, there are more than 125,000 copies of this book in print: The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships by Michael Nichols, PhD. There are a plethora of other books on this topic, too, if you want to become a better listener.
TOM MONAGHAN is Legatus’ founder and chairman. He is a member of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter.