How to Listen.

Via Kate Bartolotta
on Jan 18, 2012
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(Photo: Bindaas Madhavi)




“When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you’ve had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water.
When it balances on top of the brim,
you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin,
you are loved.”

~ John Fox




Are you a good listener?

Sometimes there’s a gap between when we think we are listening, and the other person feeling like he’s been heard. If no one’s ever told you you are a good listener, chances are–you’re not. Deeply listening to someone is a gift; people notice it. They remember it. They mention it.

When someone isn’t listening, it’s obvious. It’s painful. Not slap in the face painful, but a grating itch. If this itch goes on long enough, eventually you stop trying. You move away from it, and find someone else to listen to you. Or worse, close up altogether and stop sharing. Distractions are everywhere–internally and externally. If you want to give someone the gift of being deeply listened to it requires some effort. As simple as it seems, we all struggle with it.

What to do:

1. Be quiet. Ever notice that most of the important stuff you need to do in relationships starts with this? Nodding is good. Eye contact is good. A hand on the person’s arm or shoulder–definitely helpful. But be quiet–your mouth and your mind.

2. Relax. That little lift in your shoulders as your mind starts firing and you begin preparing your response? It shows. Even if he doesn’t consciously recognize it, it’s there. Don’t worry about your part. Just give for a few minutes. Listen with your whole body. If you are in person, face the person. If you are on the phone, be still.

3. Ask questions. When it’s time to respond, it isn’t time to fix the person. It isn’t time to drop some knowledge on them. It isn’t time to shift over to your story and explain how what they said relates to you. It’s time to re-frame what they’ve said and see if you understood. Ask questions. Get clarity. This will be helpful for both you and the person you are listening to. Instead of shifting the discussion to your experiences, you are mirroring what they’ve told you. This will help her clarify things while still allowing her to feel supported and heard.

4. Be patient. Take a breath. Stop waiting for your turn. Be completely present. Act as if listening to what she has to say is the most important thing in the world, at least for that moment. To the person you’re listening to–it is.

5. Put it in the vault. When someone opens his heart and shares with you–a little or a lot–it is a huge gift. It isn’t for you to share. It isn’t leverage. Recognize that it is a huge gift and do him the courtesy of keeping it to yourself. It will make it easier for him to return the favor when you need him to listen to you.


About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven. She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. Kate's books are now available on and Barnes & She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives. You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Instagram.


15 Responses to “How to Listen.”

  1. Caroline says:

    Another great post! I get stuck at the part where after I've asked questions etc I very often see a suggestion/solution. To not share this is almost like not showing them there is a way out (most often due to personal experience) – of course it only seems that way to me. Any tips on how to let go of that and stop before the suggestions/tips etc come flooding out?!

  2. greenbless says:

    Posted on EJ Health & Wellness Facebook

    Jessica Stone Baker
    Co-Editor, Elephant Health & Wellness
    The Mindful Body

  3. Michele says:

    Thank you!
    This was the best and simplest, to-the-point article I've ever read on being a good listener!
    You've got a gift. Thank you for writing this….

  4. Thank you Michele!

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  12. elephantjournal says:

    I love this! There is no better gift than a friend who really knows how to listen.