Are You Listening the Right Way?


Listening the right way is a continual challenge for most of us.

Even as a therapist, I sometimes have a program running in the back of my mind thinking, I want to make sure this client gets their money’s worth. I must give some enlightenment or wisdom to make it worth their while. In reality, people need to be thoroughly heard and understood first.

If you’re like me, we think we’re listening in our personal relationships. Instead, we’re thinking of how we’re going to respond before hearing what the other person is saying. We’re ready to give an answer rather than listen. We get caught in the trap of wanting to fix the problem rather than listen.

I heard a well-known and respected preacher on the radio recently. His message was all about being ready to give an answer to those who aren’t Christians. He addressed how to answer someone with different beliefs. He didn’t address how to honor their humanity, or how to empathize with them, or how to seek to understand them. There was no emphasis on how to be open to the Spirit of God while listening to the other. The message gave an air of superiority rather than humility.

Jesus models listening to others throughout the New Testament. He took time to dialogue and honored others. I believe Francis of Assisi got it right when he said, May we seek to understand more than being understood. 

As I sat under Dr. Dan Seigel’s teaching on interpersonal neurobiology, one of his quotes stood out to me. It affirmed what I believe Jesus modeled and how God designed us to be in relationship with others. In reference to brain health and well-being, he said,

“Feeling felt is healing and is likely the most important feeling we can have.”

If we learned to listen well, we head in the direction of restored relationships. If we grow to listen well, we invite others to hear us. If we listen well to those we’re closest to, our hearts would be renewed. We are designed to feel felt by those who mean the most.

I’ve made minor adaptations to this poem by Anonymous. It’s a reminder for us to honor the dignity and worth of others. May we recognize our own longings to be heard and understood.


When you ask me to listen to you

and I start giving advice,

I have not done what you asked.

When you ask me to listen to you

and I begin to tell you why you shouldn’t feel that way,

I am trampling on your feelings

When you ask me to listen to you

and I feel I have to do something to solve your problem,

I have failed you, strange as that may seem.

Listen! All you asked, was that I listen,

and not talk or do or fix – just hear you.

And you can do for yourself; you are not helpless –

Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.

When I do something for you what you can and need to do for yourself,

I contribute to your fear and weakness.

But, when I accept your emotions and respect what you feel,

no matter how irrational it may seem,

then you can quit trying to convince me and

can get about the business of understanding what’s behind the feeling.

And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious and you may not even need advice.

Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what’s behind them.

So, I will listen and just hear you.

And if I want to talk, I will wait a minute for my turn;

and ask you to listen to me.

Questions to Ponder

What is one way you’ve learned to listen well?

How has this poem touched you today?