Skillful listening

To speak is to articulate words that convey meaning, and to listen is to be aware of the words being spoken.

Ven. David Xi-Ken Astor


Speech is a process then that requires both speaking and listening simultaneously in order to express ideas, emotions, instructions, and desires.  It’s the way human’s communicate – whether it’s written speech, oral speech or signed speech.

When the Buddha spoke of “Right Speech”, he was inferring to both sides of the equation – skillful speech and skillful listening.

I have 2 days left of my study of “right speech”, so for these remaining 2 days I have decided to focus on the listening aspect.

I was lucky enough to find these great tips for skillful listening:

1. Promote an atmosphere of trust. There are many ways to establish trust, but perhaps the most effective is to be genuinely trustworthy. Many people intuitively sense an authentic personality and rarely betray that trust.

2. Shut up and listen. When we interrupt, the unwitting message we send to the speaker is: “What I have to say is more important than what you have to say.” By learning to hold our tongue and become genuinely curious about what others are saying, we greatly improve our listening skills.

3. Give up control. Many people feel that giving up control in a conversation is a sign of weakness. But the biblical injunction to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” is excellent advice for those intent on developing good listening skills.

4. Cultivate “Beginner’s Ear.” “Beginner’s ear” is a way of paying attention to the present moment with openness and curiosity—hearing it for the first time even though we think we’ve heard it before. Neuroscientists have shown that the more we practice this technique, the better our brain gets at it.

5. Double check for meaning. It is difficult not to overlay our own biases onto what we hear. One way to counter the process is to regularly double check for accuracy by paraphrasing what we hear and the meaning we make of it. Skilled listeners endeavor to reflect back a speaker’s truth and deeper reality, not simply a version of their own.

6. Listen for differences. When we listen to others, often what we listen for are the things we understand or agree with. A skillful listener deliberately seeks out and pays attention to the way others are different.

7. Ask specific clarifying questions. Author and researcher Larry Barker said, “Words have no meaning; people have meaning.” When we engage in dialogue, we frequently speak thoughts off the top of our heads. First thoughts are like first drafts—they require a good editing to clarify meaning. Asking clarifying questions can help a speaker bring their subject into clear focus.

8. Monitor for inconsistencies. Voice, tone, and body language can contradict spoken words. Skillful listeners learn to recognize inconsistencies and get to the bottom of them in a compassionate way that does not provoke defensiveness.

9. Be mindful of age, race, and gender bias. Over 100 documented cognitive biases can color everything we see, hear, and think. Skillful listeners examine how they listen to various age groups and different races or genders, then work to correct any discrepancies accordingly.

10. Cultivate patience. Skillful listeners possess a ready willingness to suspend self-expression while they focus on others without a pressing need for them to be succinct, speedy, or clear in what they have to say.

(full article here)


I look forward to practising this more for the remainder of today, and also tomorrow.

Take care my friends,