How Are You Listening?


One of my favorite quotes of Stephen R. Corvey: “Most people do not listen with the intent to listen; they listen with the intent to reply”

Listening is paying attention to what another person is saying. But how do you listen? Do you listen to get an understanding of what the person is saying? Are you listening to respond to what the individual is saying?  While I do not purport to be a listening expert there is a significant difference in how we listen.

Our listening style affects our communication or the way we communicate.  Listening to understand is listening attentively to see what the individual is saying from his or her perspective.  Listening to respond means you might not have an understanding of what the person is saying, you are waiting your turn to respond.


Say, you decide to listen to understand, then, what’s next? After you have obtained an understanding, you are better equipped to respond from a sound premise. You are aware what the individual’s intentions or thoughts are and now you can address them responsibly.

Attentively listening to understand avoids the dynamics of responding but not addressing the matters at hand.  The individual speaking will not have to continue to repeat or clarify what he or she is saying.  You may save the both of you from further frustration.

If you’re like me, you sometimes respond before the person is finished speaking. If so, then you have listened to respond. We’ve all been there.   Listening actively to understand takes practice and a conscious effort. We all believe what we are saying is important.  But, if you’re not listening to understand try exercising this type of listening. You may find understand what the individual mean instead of what you think you think you hear them saying.

17 thoughts on “How Are You Listening?

  1. Unless it is someone who agrees with you they can’t hear a word you are saying. They are thinking of how they are going to rebut you. They look for that split second they can interrupt you to get their say in. It is a frustrating “conversation” because it isn’t a conversation. Long ago a turned to writing letters,and believe me – members of my family don’t like my letters because they have to read it and can’t say anything unless they want to answer back by letter. Even then they pick parts of sentences and twist things around to get the meaning out of it they want. People don’t like not being right about everything, especially when it comes to their behavior. But if they are that shallow, do I really want a relationship with them when it only works as long as I only speak of things they way it suits them best?

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    1. Exactly, you have to assess is it worth maintaining relationships that are sometimes toxic. If it’s a family member, one would need to handle that differently, but if you are the reasonable one, then you are aware of the dilemma and may need to pull back from expecting to be understood. I think after awhile, we pretty much know those who have a tendency to do as you have described. My post is more about interactions where individuals are conversing. I agree, not all conversations are cordial and the other party is willing to reciprocate a mutual exchange. I would say in those instances, pull back away from them. It takes willing parties. Some individuals will not bend from their view points, compromise, or respect the other party perspective at all, regardless.

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      1. You are so right. Some people can’t listen, because of their own issues. I had a strange conversation with a sister. She shut me down. Refused to talk. She said, “I don’t know to be s sister but all my friends loves me” In one sentence. I said, “Why is that? Do they know you care? Do you treat them like a friend? What do you think adult sisters are?” She couldn’t get it. I came upon the conclusion that I scared her. And you’re right, some people are unwilling to bend. We’re getting a little too old to have to be “trying”. It is what it is. Some things can’t be undone.

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      2. I find sometimes siblings tend to see you in a childhood bubble. They know you through childhood and sometimes never as an adult. They remember things from the past and fail to be in the present moment with you.

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      3. If you read the latest post on Jamie’s blog. He says the same thing. He has been locked up since he was a boy. They pretty much threw him away. Even his mother. I became mom. They don’t know Jamie the man, and that is a shame.

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  2. Yvonne,
    Thanks for your thoughts on listening! Have you ever gotten the feeling that those sharing don’t really want feedback at all? It’s been happening more and more in my case. I’ll get calls from loved ones who just need a confidante to get things off their chest…so attentive listening is critical in those instances. In other situations the person doing the talking will let me know what to do by asking, “what do you think?” Then I’ll wait a few seconds to respond, because if they don’t really want to know they’ll just keep on talking:).
    We’re all complex, created beings, and just because I think and feel one way about something doesn’t mean someone else does. I’m just thankful to have friends and family who’ll come to me with their concerns and that I can do the same. Have a wonderful day.
    Blessings, Crystal

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Crystal, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and bringing out different aspects of attentively listening. In the examples you mentioned this attest to why listening attentively is important. If you have a sense of discernment while listening you’re get a feel whether the person only want to confide or really want your input. I believe those were perfect examples and situations where listening was necessary so one could know what is expected. You are right, we’re complex and unique, and for this reason, listening is very much needed. It provides a sense of guidance so one might choose the best course of action. Again, I appreciate your input and for adding to the perspective of listening. I believe the take away from this blog on listening is its importance and knowing what to do in the process.


  3. This is wonderful. I remember a relevant question from the movie Pulp Fiction. “In conversation, do you listen or wait to talk?” Like the character played by John Travolta, I had to admit that I often am composing my next line while I am listening. It might be the art of conversation, but it does not do justice to the one speaking. Details are often lost. My husband is a better listener. I’m learning to be quiet. ☺

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    1. Thanks. I think we learn later on there’s more depth to listening, I’m sure that’s why it’s more like an art. I could do much better myself. I think it’s worth it. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

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  4. I have consciously tried to listen to not respond but take in the message so much now since my daughter passed away. This was a very good blog, and great words we can and should take into our mind and make an effort to really listen to others!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think this is an effective form of communication which requires consistency and awareness. I like that you are venturing to a higher order of thinking sense your daughter’s death, what an awesome legacy in her memory.


  5. Listening is a great skill to acquire. A fews ago, a career mentor of mine said I was a good listener. I considered it a huge compliment because I had not always been that way. Just saying there’s always room for improvement when it comes to listening.

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