Nectar Of Wisdom

L – Listen to Understand

“The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand, we listen to reply.”


Opening Story:

The Three Types of People


A teacher shows three toys to a student and asks the student to find out the differences. All the three toys are seemed to be identical in their shape, size, and material. After keen observation, the student observes holes in the toys. 1st toy it has holes in the ears.  The 2nd toy has holes in ear and mouth. The 3rd toy has only one hole in one ear.

Then with the help of the needle, the student puts the needle in the ear hole of the 1st toy. The needle comes out from the other ear. In the 2nd toy, when the needle was put in the ear the needle came out of a mouth. And in the 3rd toy, when the needle was put in, the needle did not come out.

The First toy represents those people around you who gives an impression that they are listening to you, all your things and care for you. But they just pretend to do so. After listening, as the needle comes out from the next ear, the things you said to them by counting on them are gone. So be careful while you are speaking with this type of people around you, who does not care for you.

The Second toy represents those people who listen to you all your things and gives an impression that they care for you. But as in the toy, the needle comes out from a mouth. These people will use your things and the words you tell them against you by telling it to others and bringing out the confidential issues for their own purpose.

The Third toy, the needle does not come out from it. These kinds of people will keep the trust you have in them. They are the ones who you can count on.

Moral: Always stay in a company of a people who are loyal and trustworthy. People, who listen to what you tell them, are not always the ones you can count on when you need them the most.

The key to success in any relationship is good communication, but most of us are not taught the fine art of really listening to another person. Taking the advice to listen to understand instead of to reply is very important in relationships with coworkers, partners, parents, and anyone else in your life.

For the most part, in all relationships there’s one person who speaks and one who listens. But is the listener really listening? Many people think they’re better listeners than studies show they actually are.

The goal of deep listening is to acquire information, understand a person or a situation, and experience pleasure. Active listening is about making a conscious decision to hear what people are saying. It’s about being completely focused on others—their words and their messages—without being distracted.

It’s been said that one of the most common reasons why people see therapists is to have their stories heard. In order to have your story heard, you need to have a listener. Listening and empathy skills are the hallmarks of good communicators, leaders, and therapists.

The importance of listening in interpersonal relationships cannot be overemphasized. There are two different types of listening: “listening to understand” and “listening to respond.” Those who “listen to understand” have greater satisfaction in their interpersonal relationships than others. While people may think they might be listening to understand, what they’re really doing is waiting to respond.

And, when individuals try to “fix” other people, they are most often responding to their own need to influence.

According to psychologist Carl Rogers, active or deep listening is at the heart of every healthy relationship. It’s also the most effective way to bring about growth and change. Those who are heard tend to be more open, more democratic in their ways, and are often less defensive. Good listeners refrain from making judgments, and provide a safe environment and container for speakers.

By listening carefully when someone speaks, we’re telling them that we care about what they’re saying. It’s also important to remember that listening is contagious. When we listen to others, then chances are they will be more inclined to listen to us.

How Most People Listen Isn’t Really Listening

Listening to reply is the standard way that most people communicate. What that means is that instead of really paying attention to what the other person is saying, you are already thinking about what you want to say in response.

Of course, it’s great to have a well-thought-out reply, but if you’re thinking about what you want to say instead of hearing what the other person is saying, you aren’t really listening and communicating well.

You may be getting your point across — or not, if the other person listens the same way you do — but you’re not having a meaningful interaction with the other person.

What “Listening to Understand” Looks Like

Instead of thinking about what you want to say while the other person is talking, really listen to them. The experts call this “active listening.

So how do you change the way you listen?

  • Choose the right place and time. Finding a time and a place where you’re both relaxed can be a crucial part of communicating effectively. If you’re shouting to each other from different rooms, for instance, you’re unlikely to properly hear what each other is saying. It’s also really hard to listen to someone when there’s lots of background noise or other things competing for your attention.


  • Use your body language. Facing towards someone when they’re talking means you’re much more likely to focus on what they’re saying than if you’re facing away or looking at something else. And if they’re upset, try sitting close to them, putting an arm around them and – most importantly – maintaining eye contact.



  • Listen intelligently. Sometimes, people joke about something because it’s easier than saying it openly. Or they might imply something, but not quite say it outright. They may even say the complete opposite of what they mean. Listening intelligently means looking out for the meaning behind your partners’ words – hearing not just what they’re saying, but what they’re trying to say. Asking open ended questions like ‘what was that like for you?’ is great way to open up the conversation further, as it will give your partner the chance to explain things in their own words, rather than having words put in their mouth.


  • Try first to understand, and then be understood. It can be easy to focus more on what you want to say than on trying to understand your partner’s point of view. But the risk with this is you simply end up waiting for your turn to talk, rather than actually listening. Before you start talking, commit to putting your views and agenda aside.



  • Show you’re listening to what your partner is saying. That doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing all the time, but rather making it clear you’ve understood them – or that you’re trying to understand them. For this, you can employ some specific techniques. These include:
    • Mirroring what your partner has said. Repeat it back to them: ‘It sounds like you’re saying… and that has made you feel….’. That way, you’re making it clear you’re focused on them, not on yourself.
    • Clarify things. Make sure you’re getting it right, rather than assuming. The easiest way to do this is simply by checking: ‘Am I understanding you correctly?’
    • Sentences like ‘that must make you feel…’ or ‘it makes sense that given what happened that you would feel like that’ or ‘I can imagine that would be really hard’ can be really useful in showing your partner you’re not only listening, but putting yourself in their shoes.

Becoming a more active listener really does take practice, so how do you learn to listen to understand instead of to merely reply? First, understand that you won’t be perfect at this overnight, or maybe ever, but you can start working on better listening today and keep trying every day to put these ideals into practice.

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