Listening for Understanding

Laura Basha

Photo By: Tanja Heffner

The skill of deep listening is the key to relatedness. When we refer to listening in this way, we are referring to a quality of listening which is listening deeper than to the words being spoken. We are referring to a depth of listening which is listening for the feeling behind the words. We are listening for the way a person sees life, for the logic of their thinking.

This type of listening is listening for understanding. Listening for understanding how another sees life engenders compassion and insight, both for the listener and for the speaker. Understanding another’s point of view occurs naturally as we listen with nothing else on our minds; we listen from curiosity, without judgment, truly fascinated by how another sees life.

We all have a perception of life experience which is unique to our own past experience and memory. Essentially, we are all perceiving separate realities. We are all unique cultures with diverse points of view. In order to truly communicate with another we have to listen to their particular reality with respect and fascination, and we then engage with them from understanding their perceptual vantage point. This is true dialogue. Dialogue is not talking as much as it is truly listening. Insight and rapport come from respectfully listening for understanding.

We have many blocks to listening. We all do. We “listen” until the other finishes talking so that we can say our piece, or we look attentive all the while having judgmental thoughts, or we are thinking about what we will have for dinner, or we simply space out, or we experience boredom, etc., etc. The key here is to know that we all have ways in which we distract ourselves from listening, and that all of these “blocks” to listening are simply us listening to our own thinking rather than the thinking of the speaker!

No matter, simply notice what is distracting you from being present with the speaker and clear your head of your own chatter and come back to listening with curiosity about how this person sees life. You will find that boredom disappears, and knowing the “right” thing to say occurs as an insight, and rapport deepens, and understanding deepens, and communication is effortless and creative and empowering.


Diversity then becomes a valuing of differences rather than a threat to individuality. People begin to communicate from alignment rather than fighting to have their point of view heard and recognized. People don’t want to be agreed with as much as they want to be heard. Creative problem solving becomes the norm.


Listening with nothing on your mind, or without the distraction of attention to personal memory, is also the best methodology for hearing one’s own innate wisdom and common sense and genius. When we listen for what we don’t know, rather than for what we have already assimilated previously, then we open ourselves up to hear creative insight from within.

Health and well-being, leadership, creativity, wisdom, whatever we need to know, springs from within us. We tap into the inherent leader that resonates within every one of us. We elicit it from our fellows when we listen with nothing on our minds but fascination with how they see life. Communication takes on an ease. Rapport emerges. Alignment ensues.

Empowerment of self and others evolves from listening for understanding – listening to and for the Wisdom within.


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