First seek to understand than to be understood

Have you ever been in a situation in which everybody was talking at the same time and hardly anybody listened?

Chances are that you experienced this more than once.

I did. Multiple times.

In the past, I used to join the game. I was actively competing for a time slot in which I could speak loud and clear so that my massage would be heard. With little effect and a huge frustration, I must say. Hardly ever was I able to bring my message through. Mainly because I was not quick enough to react neither loud enough when I had my chance. I remember feeling small and stupid, surrounded by all smart loudly talking people.

Until I decided to change.

Be a listener

Nowadays, I do not bother to have my say. I simply enjoy being both a curious observer and a curious listener.

And you know, what?

I have fun. Obviously, I still welcome the moment when the bombarding of voices is over. But …. I do enjoy this chaotic competition of simultaneous multiple conversations. And I actually learn new things about myself and others. Most interestingly, many people seem to have great conversations with me. They talk. I listen. I ask questions. They answer. They love it.

Have you ever experienced talking to somebody who listened to you with understanding and undivided attention?

How did it make you feel? Accepted? Appreciated? Special?

Yes, indeed. Such a listening is a great skill to master. It is the best way to honor the other person and pay respect. It is the best way to take care. It is the best way to learn from others. It is the best way to look for win-win solutions. It is the best way to have a conversation, indeed.

How are you listening?

When you engage in conversations,

  • Are you present in the moment?
  • Do you keep an eye contact?
  • Do you focus on the other person and not on your thoughts?
  • How much attention do you pay to listening?
  • How much are you interested in what the other is saying?
  • Do you listen with the intent to understand?
  • Do you focus on the other person and not on your thoughts?


  • Do you interrupt before a sentence is finished?
  • Do you know what is going to be said just after a few words?
  • Do you have an answer before the question is asked?
  • Do you listen at a surface, impatient to jump in and tell your story?
  • Do you want to show off with your experience to tell about?
  • Do you want to talk, talk, talk…?

Listening stages

There are a number of listening stages. Check which stage you are usually at:

  1. Not listening. No attention.
  2. Automatic response. You are deeply in your thoughts. Your conscious mind only recognizes some keywords.
  3. Listening to own internal dialog. You have a very general idea of what is being said. You are able to repeat the last few words. Most of the story is gone.
  4. Surface listening. You listen at the surface and somewhat selectively. You are able to answer questions about certain things.
  5. Listening with understanding. You listen with full attention. You can answer simple questions and some complex questions.
  6. Active listening. You listen with full attention. You understand what is being said and the situation. You have own thoughts about the issue. You can answer questions and provide understanding.

Your goal is to be an active listener.

If you are not there yet, no problem. We are all learning and you can learn it too. You can be the change you would like to experience.

The key understanding is that in active listening the focus is on the other person, not you. Active listening is an expression of love. Hence there is no judgement.

You are there to show interest.
You are there to ask questions.
You are there to reflect, paraphrase and clarify.
You are there to understand.
You are there to act as a mirror and show the other person who (s)he is.

When you actively listen you allow the other person simply to be in a moment, both respected and appreciated. You create a space in which the other can safely identify with his or her Self: inner images and feelings, ideas, needs, challenges and ambitions.

Start where you are.

Set the intention to listen more actively. Engage. And you will see the results.


The image above shows a beautiful quilt by Inge Duin. See more of her works on

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