How to listen

  • Sumo

OK, I’m slow & you’ve probably figured this out already. But I want to write it down anyway.

There are (at least) two ways to listen: listen to or listen through.

Listen to:
The interest is in the speaker. How is she doing? What are his concerns? Etc.

Of course, the listener can throw in his or her own stories and ideas. It’s still two-way communication!

Listen through:
The interest is in the speakers’ topic. The speaker becomes, if you like, a channel for the information about a third party, or a different place, or some other situation.

Of course, good communication like this is still two-way.

Neither is bad. And both are necessary.

Trouble might arise, however, if speaker and listener don’t agree on what kind of conversation they are having. Speaker might want to be heard – but hearer is trying to understand the wider situation. Or speaker might want to inform about some problem – but hearer tries to peer into the speaker’s psyche.

So when I listen, I’m going to try and think, ‘Right now, should I listen to or listen through?’

And what I talk, I’ll try to understand what kind of listening I hope for. So then I can try and ‘ask’ for that listening more clearly.