greg dahlen

Alumnus, academy of achievement


This conversation is closed.

how to be a good listener?

I often read that it's very important to be a good listener. Any tips you have for how to be one?

If someone were a bad listener, could they still have a good life?

Closing Statement from greg dahlen

well, I believe the most helpful thing I learned is that one of my biggest impediments to listening well is having worries on my mind that I'm trying to solve whilst also trying to listen to another person talk about entirely different subjects. Thus I need to find a way to deal with these worries, and when I have, I am a better listener.

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    Nov 18 2013: This may be an obscure analogy, but I think being a good listener is rather like being a good seer.

    When I go outside with my photographic gear, I sometimes deliberately fix only the macro lens on the camera, which forces me to look at things close-up without getting distracted by general scenes. It always ends up being very rewarding because I am forced to see intimate, interesting things that otherwise would have been missed.

    I think being a good listener is a bit like fixing an appropriate auditory 'lens' to the ears. Sometimes we need to listen to detail - other times to get the bigger picture. I guess a really good listener is someone who knows exactly the right time and context to change their auditory 'lenses'.

    I would think that bad listeners are easily distracted by their own thoughts and things going on around the person in front of them rather than the person himself, so it's possible that they could have a good life, if that's what genuinely pleases them. But if it does matter to them what other people think and do, then a bad listener can be made into a good one quite easily by forcing themselves to focus in on what is appropriate, decisively and deliberately - possibly by imagining a 'change of lens' :-) Listening well then becomes second nature after a period of practice, because one then realises after a while that other people really are genuinely interesting and will usually hold your attention without the need to force the issue.
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      Nov 18 2013: Good point about the photography Allan....micro/macro lens being similar to listening. When I traveled a lot, I rarely took a camera, because I felt like it was a distraction from "being" fully present in the moment. It also felt like it immediately tagged me as a tourist!

      Lots of times, we want to bring back photos as memories, so with that intent, the present moment is sometimes missed. I bring the memories back in my mind and heart. Most of the time when I traveled, the person I traveled with or people in the groups took photos and sent me copies anyway!!!

      There are some FABULOUS "scenes" in our world, and the moments that are the most precious to me are the times spent with people. I DID take a camera to Nepal, and I have hundreds of photos of children.... I seemed to be especially drawn to children at that time. It's funny, because the person I traveled with took hundreds of photos of the mountains, which of course are also magnificent:>)

      Back to the idea of micro/macro lens.....
      "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes..."
      (Marcel Proust)

      "And ears"
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        Nov 18 2013: colleen, was your impression that people in prison might be bad listeners, this might account for some of their bad choices?
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          Nov 18 2013: I perceived them as relatively good listeners Greg. I pretty much had their undivided attention in a locked up room with court ordered programs:>) AND I was offering some ideas without judgment.

          This has been mentioned on this thread, and I think/feel it is important to reinforce......

          There are several levels, or layers to listening.....paying attention to the other person....being genuinely interested....actually hearing (we can listen to the words, and not hear what the person is expressing on all levels....body language, etc.) assimilating the information and applying the information when applicable......
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        Nov 18 2013: Good quote by Proust - and Colleen! Thanks ;-)

        Have you read "Proust Was a Neuroscientist" by Jonah Lehrer? - your quote reminded me of this book. It's theme is about the value of art in understanding the brain - that art habitually gets there first and that science is only now rediscovering.

        Lehrer explains this hypothesis through the work of writers, painters and composers. Proust reveaed the fallability of memory, George Eliot understood the brain's malleable plasticity, Cezanne worked out the subtleties of vision, and Virginia Woolf the mysteries of consciousness...

        It's a good read.
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          Nov 18 2013: Not familiar with it Allan.....sounds very interesting:>)
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        Nov 18 2013: for me, colleen, it seems most important to just listen to the words, I don't multi-task well at all, so if I have to choose one aspect of listening I guess it will be the words.

        Do you multi-task well? How do you do it?
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          Nov 18 2013: I can multi-task at times Greg....depends on the situation. I have a policy however, to NOT multi-task when communicating with people. I prefer to be fully present when interacting with others:>)

          Being open to ALL possibilities in a communication is not "multi-tasking" to me, because the "task" is simply to be open and receiving in all possible ways.
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        Nov 18 2013: Like you, I don't like to bound my experience by letting the camera intervene or frame the scene. What is lost then, potentially, are the things I may not have noticed that I might have seen on viewing the photo later that captured what my eye missed. Often others have been taking photos, so I benefit from theirs afterwards.

        I share your love of photographs of children. You might look online at the photographs of Steve McCurry, my favorite photographer.
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          Nov 18 2013: Hi Fritzie, Agreed - particularly his photo of the Afghan girl with the dazzling eyes!
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          Nov 18 2013: Steve McCurry's work is exquisite, and the Afghan girl with the dazzling eyes is amazing.....many very haunting images............

          Fritzie, the more we connect, the more I think we are like two peas in a pod....maybe Allan is another pea in our pod.....LOL:>)
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        Nov 18 2013: colleen, what I meant by multitasking in this situation is, if I have to listen to a person talk and watch their body language, I can't do it, it feels like two tasks, or "multitasking." Therefore I make a choice that the most important thing is their words, so I just listen to their words and forgo the watching the body language. Apparently, others on this post can do both at the same time?
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          Nov 18 2013: I think I understood what you meant Greg.....

          You perceive listening and observing body language as two separate tasks.

          I perceive the "task" to be one task involving listening with all my senses.
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        Nov 18 2013: listening with all your senses, but if you missed their words, that would damage understanding more than if you missed their body language, or am I wrong on that?
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          Nov 18 2013: Yes Greg....listening with all the senses. Hearing is one of our it not?
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        Nov 18 2013: Colleen, I agree with Proust and you. I think there are unknown worlds everywhere, if we are ready for discovering them. The fascination of adventure is great, because in this case doesn't matter at all if other people discovered them before us. New and different worlds -all the scales- are here and there, and we need to get new eyes and ears for giving a look into them. And even into ourselves, if we know how to look, we can find susprises. Other people, animals, books, music, even the streets or the country, all of them offer new perspectives to them who are so lucky for seeing. [Wow, sorry for my bad english, it's difficult for me to explain correctly.. :) Sometimes it tooks me a hard task to say just what I want to]
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          Nov 18 2013: Well appears that we are ALL in good company:>)

          I agree that the fascination of adventure is great, and it is the process of discovery that is intriguing to me. If I do not listen, and pay attention in every moment, I am simply depriving my "self" of opportunity. I agree that if we know how to look, we find surprises. Even if we are simply OPEN to listening, hearing, seeing, we get surprises all the time.....everywhere......with every moment:>)

          Sean, you express yourself beautifully, and I appreciate your comments....thank you:>)
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        Nov 18 2013: well, I guess the problem is I can only do one sense at a time, listening is one of the five senses, sight is a second, smell is a third, etc. I suppose watching their body language would fall under the sense of sight, right? Listening to their words under the sense of hearing? Smelling them under the sense of smell, tasting them, well, that would be cannibalism, physically feeling them under the sense of touch. I'm just wondering how people can listen with their ears at the same time as they watch with their eyes, to me that's using two senses and it's pretty hard for me. But it's not a huge issue, colleen, I'm doing okay just listening with my ears and not doing much with my other senses. I'm just curious how other people use more than one sense at one time. When I played basketball the main sense was probably eyesight, didn't employ the other senses too much.
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          Nov 18 2013: Greg,
          Haven't you mentioned, in comments on TED that you walk a lot? Observe scenery? Hearing people? Nature sounds? I think we see and hear things often at the same time.
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        Nov 18 2013: I suppose you're right, colleen, when you walk you might take in more than one thing at once, but each thing is a bit superficial, if for example I try to pay attention to the sound of car motors, I'm not paying as much attention to the look of the trees. But when someone talks to me, I would like to make sure I catch the ideas, and for me the best is to just listen to the words and hardly notice anything else. Which is fine and works out. It's just other people say they can multi-task, and I wonder if they really can and how it works out.

        I'm also quite impressed by people who can do two things at once. For example, is it true that Paul McCartney could play the bass and sing at the same time, that would really impress me.
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          Nov 18 2013: Again Greg, it seems like we are talking about our individual perception of what is "multi-tasking". You apparently perceive seeing and hearing as two tasks, and I perceive them as parts of one task. In my perception, to genuinely listen, has several elements....all one task.

          Lots of musicians sing and play an instrument at the same time:>)
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        Nov 18 2013: well, colleen, again, I'm doing okay, but it's nice to talk to you. Yeah, in theory I could see what you're saying, but in my life it doesn't work that way, in fact I'm very careful much of the time to only do one thing, for example, I turn off the radio to get dressed in the morning, or turn off the radio to do even the simplest task like wash dishes. I guess I find I can get dressed better, perhaps choose my colors and which clothes will give me the best comfort and warmth for the day, if my attention is undivided. Similarly, I like to listen to the radio when I can give it my full attention. Where would you stand on these actions?

        Well, I could strum a guitar to the rhythm of what I was singing, but if I had to pick some notes that were a different melody than what I was singing, that would be difficult.
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          Nov 19 2013: Nice to chat with you too Greg:>)

          I usually have music in my home....background music which I may change with the mood. It is usually soft, classical instrumental, some of the tapes and CDs have nature sounds....birds, water flowing, etc., and sometimes if I am doing an energetic project, I like to listen to something more "snappy" to encourage extra energy flow. There is a speaker in the gardens too, so when I work/play in the gardens there is usually music:>)
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        Nov 19 2013: well, if people have committed crimes, and yet they are good listeners, how would you account for their crimes?

        Well, if you enjoy the classical music, great. If you felt like running an experiment, you could turn it off for a while (at least when you're simultaneously doing other things) and see if you could do things better. For me, I really believe I could, but of course different people are different.

        Classical music is something I don't know much about. How did you get into it?
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          Nov 19 2013: I cannot "account" for anyone's crimes Greg. I believe we can all listen to different information and make a choice to apply the information in many different ways.

          I agree...different people are different, and we all make different choices.

          I studied piano as a kid and played some classical. I'm not sure if you are "listening", because sometimes you ask the same questions when I may have already given you that information.
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        Nov 19 2013: so basically people who commit crimes are hearing the messages that you shouldn't commit a crime, but they're making the decision to commit one? Seems a bit weird?

        It would be nice if I could do several things at once and do them all just as well as if I only did one at a time. I have this funny picture of myself as an octopus, doing something different with each arm.

        Yes, now that you mention it, I believe you had told me that you played it as a kid. Well, some things probably get inscribed in the memory more powerfully than others. Sometimes it's just easier for me to ask a question again than try to go back through the melange of past TED conversations and find it. But it's interesting that classical music "took" with you, of course we've all heard it, but it didn't grab me, wonder why it did you?
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          Nov 20 2013: Basically Greg, I do not know for sure, and I do not speculate regarding what information people hear and apply to the life adventure. Unless a person gives me that information about him/herself, there is no way I can KNOW for sure what is going on in the heart and mind of another person. There are many people who are brought up in a life of crime, and they may not know how to function in a different way.

          There are people who have been exposed to one kind of music or another and either like and accept it or not. I like most kinds of music:>)
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      Nov 18 2013: well, when I'm listening well, not all that often, I think I just go "blank," there's no "me," I'm only hearing the person's words. Maybe when it's my turn to speak, I might go macro or micro.

      I seem to listen better to people on TV or radio than live people like friends or family. Is this because they're better speakers, or I don't have an obligation to speak, or I don't have as many topics between them and me as with family or friends?

      I would think being a bad listener means a bad life, as life is complex and you need much information to get through which you acquire by listening. Could it be that people in prison are bad listeners?

      Love your closing statement, must remember others are interesting and want to be heard.
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    Nov 11 2013: It's dizzy to see my comments among the former ones, so please let me move it to here.
    " well, let's say he prefers to talk rather than listen, when he listens to someone else sometimes his mind drifts... "

    If this kind of person lacks super talents to be insightful to make people respect them, they'll probably fail in their life becasue they can't get enough firsthand or important information from people and do more necessary thinking. People usually regard these kind of people rude and stupid, which may cause people to stay away from these bad listeners.
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      Nov 11 2013: Another good point Yoka,
      When we are not listening to the best of our ability, we actually deny ourselves the opportunity to get more information. That is one reason I like being fully present and engaged in the moment.....I don't like to deny myself information:>)
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        Nov 11 2013: and how do you put your worries aside to just listen, colleen? Or what happens if you think of something you want to say to the other person, but you don't want to interrupt while they're talking, but you also don't want to forget what you want to say?

        You know, another interesting question is, how does one think on one's feet? For instance I sometimes call in and talk on talk radio shows, but sometimes I get stymied in the conversation, the host says something and I can't think of a snappy reply. Then, after we hang up, I think, "Oh, I should have said that."
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          Nov 18 2013: Greg,
          "How do I put my worries aside...?"

          I don't worry, because I have no desire to do that to myself.

          Worry..." to subject to persistent or nagging attention or effort; to afflict with mental distress or agitation; anxiety; torment".

          Worrying generally takes us round and round in circles (persistent nagging, mental distress, agitation, anxiety, etc.)

          I think, feel, ponder, evaluate information, consider, seek resolutions, etc., on many different worry.

          That being said, we can give ourselves the time to think, feel, ponder, etc., when we choose. For example, when I was performing, there were times that something challenging was going on in my personal life, and that evening, I was playing the role on stage of a happy go lucky person. While in the role, I put the challenging thoughts/feelings aside (sometimes I actually said to myself.....self......we will deal with that later), and proceeded to play the happy person. The opposite was true as well. At another time I dealt with the challenge.

          "What happens if you think of something you want to say....don't want to interrupt....don't want to forget?"

          Sometimes, if a person is going on and on, I might say....excuse me....could I just ask a question? When we are thinking of something we want to say, we are not really listening. I find that most conversations flow, when we give ourselves and the other person that opportunity. If a thought passes through my mind, and I don't have the opportunity to express it, I believe it probably didn't need to be expressed. I prefer to listen well, rather than try to formulate my next comment. I think that is a major challenge with listening/not listening.....people are often already thinking about what they are going to say next.....let it go and listen:>)

          "How does one think on one's feet"?
          Personally, I just let the conversation flow. Perhaps in your quest to have a "snappy reply", you are not really listening to the other person?
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        Nov 12 2013: Thank you Colleen,again.
        I think I always see your great patience in listening and talking to people here.
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          Nov 12 2013: Thank you so much Yoka, and I see that in you as well my friend. It is much more enjoyable than the alternative:>)
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        Nov 18 2013: thanks for the long set of ideas, very interesting about the theater and dealing with worries.

        Yes, I believe I'll try to relax and not worry if I recall the point I had wanted to make.

        Colleen, one interesting thing, I decided for me it might be better to express my worries to the other person, and then, having "cleared my mind," I could listen better. It can be hard, because sometimes you think others don't want to hear your worries. But I found I only took five minutes to share one worry with one person, and it has really cleared my mind, I have been listening better for the last two or three weeks to everybody.
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          Nov 19 2013: You are welcome Greg:>)

          Clearing the mind can be beneficial, and it's also important to intuit if the information you are clearing from your mind is something the other person actually wants to hear. Some folks sometimes "vent" (clear their mind), are not aware of the effect it might have on the other person, and I do not perceive that to be beneficial. Does the other person really want to have that information? We can usually sense that by being aware of facial expressions, body language, etc.

          When we are listening with all the senses, and are fully engaged in the conversation at the moment, it seems like the conversation flows. I tend to "feel" the conversation rather than "think" about it as it is flowing. Thinking about it, and analyzing it as it is happening interferes with the flow for me.
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        Nov 19 2013: right, colleen, in this case the person did not initially want to hear it, but as I talked on they calmed down and were okay with it. I would say that there are times in life you have to talk about unpleasant things and you have to make a judgement as to what the rewards will be versus the detriments. In this case, by talking about this one unpleasant thing for five minutes, I was able to clear my head, and then I could listen much better to this other person for the next half hour. So I would say it was worth it, the other person got a reward in that I could listen to them better. But yes, there would be times, and people, not to expose your worries. A lot of it might be how you talk about it, if you can talk about it intelligently and crisply, the other person might tolerate it better. If I talk about my worries and the other person starts saying things back to me, I try to ask questions about what they're saying to understand better, that way it's not just me giving a monologue.
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          Nov 19 2013: I wholeheartedly support talking about challenges Greg, and it is important for me to intuit what information to give to what people. I personally would not feel comfortable if a person was simply "tolerating" me, or the information I was providing.
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        Nov 19 2013: well, not sure how you mean "tolerating" here, Colleen, merely not protesting, or actually listening carefully? I do think there are ways to "sweeten" talking about challenges, listening carefully to the other person's feedback, asking questions about what they're saying, etc. I would still say one has to make a rewards-consequences decision, how much pain in talking about challenges versus how much reward?
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          Nov 19 2013: You used the word "tolerate" Greg, (" if you can talk about it intelligently and crisply, the other person might tolerate it better"), and I use it based on the accepted definition...

          Perhaps one does indeed make a rewards-consequences decision.....based on the feelings and preference of BOTH people in the interaction.
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        Nov 19 2013: well, I think when you listen to someone talk about their challenges, you would have many different feelings, one might be some pain, perhaps you empathize with them and thus feel the pain of their situation yourself, or you imagine yourself being in their situation and it's painful, or other reasons for pain. And I'm thinking the person telling their worries could find some ways to make the conversation more palatable so that in spite of the pain, the conversation is at least somewhat engaging, or seems to be moving forward and helping, or other positive outcomes. But I don't know if person B is going to kick up their heels with joy that person A is telling them his problems, although sometimes that might happen.

        Well, the way I approached is is to make a unilateral decision that although it might be painful to the other person to hear my challenges, it might help me listen better to the other person about other topics if I could "clear" the one worry on my mind. And it seems to me it worked out that way. But I suppose I could say to the person, "Look, I would like to have a happy conversation with you about our lives, but I do have this one worry I have to get off my chest, is that okay?"

        What attitude would you like someone to have who is listening to your challenges, Colleen?
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          Nov 20 2013: I agree Greg.....when we are truly listening, we may experience feelings, and I am honored when people share thoughts and feelings with me, because to me, it demonstrates trust. I feel grateful when people are genuinely listening to me, because in my perception and experience it builds trust, and it demonstrates a willingness to open the heart and mind to each other.
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        Nov 21 2013: well, my situation might be a little difficult, colleen, because the person I feel most comfortable sharing my challenges with, my mom, is often not that thrilled to hear about them. I generally feel comfortable talking to my mom (I imagine many people do), and she knows me quite well, knows my history, knows the background of some of my challenges that have lasted a long time, so in that sense it's good. But she's also a person who tends to downplay a person's challenges, or even tell them they're all in their head, so it's difficult in that sense.

        I remember when I was a kid, I went through a year where I was very afraid of being kidnapped. We walked close to two miles each way to school, and I was very scared on those walks, very fearful of passing cars that one would stop and the driver would try to kidnap me. I should have told someone, one of my parents, but my dad was always working, and my mom I was afraid would downplay my fears. So I just suffered. Eventually the fear passed.
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          Nov 21 2013: I am sorry that your situation is difficult Greg, also sorry for your experience as a child, and glad you were able to move through that challenging fear.

          That is why I think/feel genuinely listening is SO important. Genuinely hearing people, being open to them, and reaching out to them is as important as being able to trust a person we choose to share information with. The practice of listening is especially important when children are exploring the life experience. Listening, or not listening, has the potential to influence a kids entire life.
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        Nov 21 2013: thanks much for your great ideas. Love the idea of listening to children, also, how to help children listen? Convo closes in six minutes.
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          Nov 21 2013: Modeling is usually the best teacher:>)
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    Oct 23 2013: Hi Greg :)

    I am agree with Joseph Thomas!
    A good listener is who don't let his/her mind interfere while listening. Mind is always judgmental. It is full of predetermined/preoccupied decisions you have made in your life, that is why mind continuously relate every coming information to deny or accept in between listening. When a information comes to you, it should be welcomed as a stranger and there is no need to either take the side of a stranger or going against it. Mind should be kept aside in listening.

    Have you ever thought Greg, people listening are better when they are alone and they listen music or watch tv, that's why TV commercials are so successful. But why it happens? Because, now listener knows, nobody is there in front of them to whom they can nod to show the acceptance or to nonacceptance, so they becomes good receptors of coming information.

    Good Listening is not a guarantee of a good life. Yaa but undoubtedly, it opens some doors in future for your life. It helps to develop a good foresight inside you. :)
  • Oct 22 2013: When you listen let there be zero acceptance and zero denial. Try practicing it and eventually you could be one great listener.
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      Oct 22 2013: okay, but once it's your turn to speak, Joseph, you do want to take a position on what the person just said, do you not? For instance, if they just said "I think we should go to Carl's Jr. for lunch," and is waiting for a response from you, you can't just practice zero acceptance and zero denial. Oh, maybe you only mean in certain situations practice zero acceptance and zero denial?
      • Oct 23 2013: Zero acceptance and denial, that is for all situations. When we listen , we gotta llisten completely. It should be simply - absolute beautiful listening !, you should be so alive,completetly alert. Once listening is done then it's your time to speak, there you can accept or deny it.
        After all words are the means used by the author to translate his experience. This translation is already so limited. So let us always judge after the listening is done.
        Zero acceptance and denial is till the point where the speaker stops speaking.
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          Oct 23 2013: love it, joe. But do you do this, is it hard to do, can you always do it, do you often fail? How does a person do this more?
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    Oct 22 2013: I just Try to Shut up Sometime..
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      Oct 22 2013: right. Do you ever find your mind drifting away to other topics while you are listening? This is bad, right? Can you prevent it, we should try to prevent it, right?
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        Oct 23 2013: It happens Greg After all Mind too has its own ability, Sometime it switches ON and OFF after every 1 or 2 hour, that is the reason Why movies are all ways of only 2 hour (most of the time).

        Thanks for thums up!
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          Oct 23 2013: love it, Kuldeep, so we should take a break and relax our mind when we've been listening for a while? But life demands that we stay attentive all day long?
  • emna BO

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    Oct 22 2013: first, when you see that something is wrong with someone you ask him if he tells that nothing is wrong you ask if he is sure .
    and you ask questions to show that you re intrested in the story .
    to comment and ask him to go on etc..
    then you add your opinion and suggest a solution if it is a problem of course .
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      Oct 22 2013: haha, Thumb-up( I have been waiting for days to be able to give you thum-ups, but still failed.)
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        Oct 22 2013: It is so frustrating when we run out of thumbs up isn't it?

        Just wait a few days.....but I much rather have your lovely words, so I can write back. Ernesto's talk is WONDERFUL!!!!!!
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          Oct 22 2013: THX
          I'll watch it. I'll never fail to type words here. How wonderful~!!!!!(๑•ั็ω•็ั๑)
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          Oct 31 2013: You're right~! It's really marvelous~! I like it, too~!
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      Oct 22 2013: it's true, Mary. One problem I have is that while I'm trying to listen I'm also trying to formulate what I'm going to say when my turn to talk comes. Do you experience this? Have you found a solution?
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        Oct 23 2013: This is natural Greg.

        We all experience this. The problem sometimes is that WHILE we are thinking what to say next, if we meditate too much on it and the other person is still speaking, we might lose precious sound bytes of information that might hamper communication.

        I am sometimes amazed at your questions. Mostly because you appear to be thinking about your thinking.................normally people go through all these cognitive dilemmas without even giving it a second thought, and through trial and error they find a happy balance. You come out and ask and delve into explanations.....that is wonderful.

        You might enjoy reading information about metacognitive skills.

        Your question is a good one Greg. And as Robert links above......there are many types of listeners......and we must not confuse hearing with listening......they are two distinct things.
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    Oct 22 2013: try to imagine yourself in the place of the talker Greg :)
  • Oct 22 2013: Using your body language as a response has done many good to me.

    Asking interesting questions to motivate the conversation on the speaker side can show a sign of active listening and makes people more comfortable in sharing.
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    Oct 21 2013: Have you listened to this talk: ?

    Here is TED's Listening playlist:
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      Oct 22 2013: thanks, F, I'm sure I'll end up listening to them all.

      what are some of the reasons we listen, we listen to get information or knowlege, to learn something; we listen to get someone else's emotions, to feel something; listen for pleasure, such as to music, I guess to some degree that involves the first two purposes, learning and emotion.

      Interesting, the comments I've gotten so far seem to have focused on how to listen better to other people. I often listen quite a bit to other sounds around me, like right now my fingers tapping the keyboard keys; other people tapping their keys, as I'm in a public library; people clearing their throats or shifting in their chairs (well, that is listening to people, but not talking.) When walking, I listen quite a bit to the passing cars.
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        Oct 23 2013: The first sort of listening that came to my mind was the kind of listening a teacher does to students to pick up cues as to how they are thinking about the ideas in play, which combines with visual observations of them to form the whole observation. The teacher needs to listen carefully to their thinking to sense the opportunities to leverage those thoughts for their greatest learning.

        The second was listening to outdoor sounds of, for example, wind through leaves.
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          Oct 23 2013: so if you had to class that kind of listening a teacher does, where would you class it? Is it listening for knowledge, or to learn, but not quite the same as listening to an expert lecture on something.
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        Oct 23 2013: One listens for what the person knows, what the person feels, and how the person is thinking. You can classify that somewhere if that is useful to you.
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      Oct 23 2013: wonder, F, if someone were a bad listener, could they still have a good life?
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        Oct 23 2013: you think deaf people have a good life?
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          Oct 23 2013: yes, mary, but they have their own version of listening, through sign language. I suppose there are some deaf people who are good listeners and some who are bad, the bad ones' mind may drift while the other person is signing and they miss part of what the other person is "saying." So could a deaf "bad listener" have a good life, well, the question stumps me. Technically it's also important to listen to yourself, presumably a bad listener doesn't listen to him or herself very well, either?
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        Oct 24 2013: In the deaf community you must keep eye contact to be an active listener.

        But I think, it's what you say......the mind could be drifting if you have a lot of things you are worrying about.

        So, regardless of whether or not you can "hear" others, it is important, if you want to be a good listener, to give people your "undivided attention"..........this takes effort. As most things worth pursuing in life take effort.
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    Nov 18 2013: The following are the prerequisites of a good listener:
    1. A keen mind
    2. A focus on the subject
    3. Working eyesight
    3. Working hearing capacity
    4. Patience
    5. Undivided attention
    6. Empathy

    If someone is a bad listener s/he can have only a partly good life.
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      Nov 18 2013: Pabitra, why working eyesight? Here in America we say "Justice is blind," in fact when we picture justice she is as a blindfolded woman holding a scale.
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        Nov 18 2013: When a person speaks, a substantial part of the communication is non-verbal. Listening, in true sense, is about receiving as much communication as possible. Unless the listener is physically challenged with eyesight, I think you would not like the prospect of talking to someone who is constantly looking away.

        This is exactly why 'Justice' is blind. Judgement requires facts denuded of emotions, and feelings. That's why we have 'hearings' not 'listenings.'
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          Nov 18 2013: well, I do sort of look the person in the eye when we talk, Pabitra, and not waver much from that, but mostly I am not thinking about their eyes much, I am just listening to their words, maybe the looking in eye is just to make them feel like I am engaged with them, or to help myself not become distracted by other things. Yes, it's a good question for me, why do I look people in the eye when I don't get much information from that, maybe I am getting information but at a very "low-volume" level, most of my concentration has to be on their words, or my mind will wander. But then, what about people who are talking during athletic competition, they listen but they also have to watch with their eyes, well, I guess an athletic competition is quite different from an intellectual discussion.
  • Nov 18 2013: A good listener will give absolute focus to whoever is communicating with them.

    A good listener will keep their mouth shut and not say a word until the speaker is finished with their point.

    Based on what type of relationship you have with the speaker it may adjust how you listen. For example, at work I'd listen differently than I would talking with my wife. You need to determine if you should be background processing the message, looking for hidden emotional cues. Also, in a professional environment you'd withhold the gentle touch on the arm you might give somebody you really care about.

    Finally I'd say always be in tune with body language and facial expressions. It can help you determine if you are being perceived as listening well or not.
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      Nov 18 2013: I especially like the last idea, Robert. I have noticed when I'm listening well, something in the other person's facial expression and voice becomes happier. But I will say if you're noticing that, even that might become a distraction to just straight-out listening to their words, might'nt it?
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    Nov 10 2013: Hello Dear Greg,
    My grandfather used to say "we learn to listen by listening….and like everything else, practice makes perfect "(I often wished I had inherited his musical gene:-) Here is the number one best teacher, in my opinion, teaching us how to learn to be a good listener.(Evelyn Glennie got me "hooked" on TED)
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    Oct 25 2013: Bad listeners usually have exciting stories, and of course they have some good listener, to listen to that stories. Life of bad listeners is brilliant! :o)
  • Oct 24 2013: I ask myself several questions while listening

    1. What is the topic ? - too many times the topic changes and people drift off topic
    2. What is being added to the discussion? - is the speaker adding a new bit of information on the topic or repeating what has been said before.
    3. What is being asked? - A person can be answering a question(sometimes they are saying what they want not answer the question) or even in a statement there is an underlying question.

    In answer to the 2nd question, imho the answer is yes. They do not know what they are missing.
  • Oct 24 2013: One of my interests or knowledge is Statistics. I also am interested in a broad scope of knowledge in various fields or disciplines, but not necessarily the depth in any particular one. So I consider myself as a "walking.file cabinet". I love to collect all kinds of information and file them away in my "cabinet", then in time of need, I will come up with a comprehensive image on certain things by synthesizimg information from many stored files from the "cabinet". Sometimes, I even could synthesize a prediction or projection of future events as well.
    I am usually looked upon as a quiet introvert. I like to listen to other people talk on almost all subject matters. I only speak up when I believe that my words are related to the topic being discussed, also not being just a regurgitation of what someone else have already said, or just tell my personal adventure only remotely relevant to the topic. I will not have a daydream while pretending my interest in the conversation. I would excuse myself from the group if I lost my interest in it. However I would not frequently displease people as a rude introvert because I fit in the group quite well due to my broad interest in many things.
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    Oct 24 2013: Hi Greg, being able to listen is something you need if you want to participate in any kind of conversation.
    As to tips:
    I suggest, when in a conversation, just let the other person finish his/her sentence or thought before you answer. Try not to interrupt (sometimes difficult when to conversation is about something emotionally loaded).
    Keep a mental timer. In general it's a good idea to spend more time listening than talking.
    As to having a good life being a bad listener. I suppose both are not mutually exclusive, although it might depend on what you consider a "good life". Being a bad listener probably costs you social kudos.
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    Oct 23 2013: Yes Greg, being attentive is todays demand of Competition.
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    Oct 23 2013: Hello again Greg:>)

    First of all, based on our conversations here on TED, it appears that you are a good listener, because you seem genuinely engaged with conversations, interested in other people and topics:>)

    Those are two elements (engaged and interested) which contribute to good listening, in my perception. When interacting in person, I listen with all my senses, being aware of tone and body language, as well as the actual words that are used. You probably know that communication is a large percent body language?

    With communications here on TED, we lack tone and body language, so I read comments several times with different tone and emphasis on different words, to try to make sure that I'm getting the meaning as much as I can.

    If I do not understand, I say that, and ask questions to clarify meaning. When communicating, I feel fully engaged in the process at the moment (not thinking about other things, getting my response ready, wishing I was somewhere else, doing something else, etc.). Genuinely paying attention with interest, and having an open heart and mind contributes to good my perception:>)

    If someone is not a good listener, yes, s/he can probably have a good life, and I suspect it might be a life that is less active with conversations of any depth.
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      Oct 23 2013: good points all, c. I think if I read a question on TED I imagine the person's voice and body language, so that figures in for me. Well, in oral listening I sometimes drift, the person I most talk with is my mom, I do most of the talking when we talk, but when she talks I sometimes drift, I keep trying to fight it, but I still do it. Do women sometimes complain about men drifting when women talk? I wonder if men do more of the talking in the world, and women more of the listening?
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        Oct 23 2013: Thanks Greg:>)

        I sometimes imagine a person's voice and body language in on-line discussions too.....and I remember that it is ONLY my imagination. Real photos of people give me some clues about the person sometimes too:>)

        I you drift when talking with your mom because you are not interested in the topic? Is she repetitive?

        Your comment reminds me of some interactions I had with a friend as she was getting older and had some memory loss. She died a couple years ago at age 92. I visited her almost every day, and she got to the point where she was repeating the same conversation every day. So, I tried to direct the conversation a little bit by asking different questions every day, trying to stimulate new thoughts and conversation. Most of the time it worked pretty well:>)

        She also liked to play scrabble and as a retired teacher, very avid reader, she was VERY good at it. Before she had memory loss, we had some pretty even games. She got to the point, however, when she couldn't remember words, or the spelling of words. So, in scrabble, whatever she wrote was acceptable.

        I confess that I cheated a wee bit too.....always adding extra points to her score. And I subtracted points from my score instead of adding them:>) I also played a kind of reverse strategy.....figuring out how I could set up the most opportunities for her to play, while making the least points for myself:>)

        It was really interesting to observe my own feelings around this, because even though I was altering the score to help her feel better about it, it was still ALTERING the score, and although my intention was good, in some ways, it didn't quite feel right! Oh what webs we weave............LOL
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        Oct 23 2013: Dear Greg,
        I did not have a clue regarding your last I went on a search....I LOVE the internet!!!

        Your question.....
        " I wonder if men do more of the talking in the world, and women more of the listening?"

        There is a lot of information out there regarding this are just a few sites.....have fun:>)
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      Oct 28 2013: I don't know why I drift, Colleen. Thanks for asking. My mother is very sharp. I think sometimes something she says makes me think of some issue in my own life, and somehow my mind goes to that issue. Or I have something worrying me in my life that my mind just goes to regardless of what she is talking about. Or I"m trying to formulate my thoughts ahead as to what to say when is finished talking, and in working on that miss some of what she is saying. Possibly my mother is quite conventional and thus says very conventional things and thus they lack a little bit of "zing."
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        Oct 30 2013: Looks like an opportunity for you there Greg?
  • Oct 22 2013: greg dahlen
    Glendale, CA
    United States

    My neighbor, a nice chap, visits me several times a week. He likes to talk, and no matter what
    I am doing, he comes in, sits and talks. I am always careful not to interrupt him. A loose grunt
    or a cough, is enough for him to change the subject and continue. My computer sits alone and
    the screen saver appears. Never does my phone ring, although I pray it will. A telemarketer
    calling would feel successful I am sure. After an hour or a bit longer, he leaves me with a joke
    or two, laughing his way home.

    I have developed professional listening tools for young Mormon elders, and Jehovah's Witnesses.
    Christmas carolers find me an avid listener.

    I still don't subscribe to any newspapers, and don't belong to any clubs. I never found much use for
    radio music, since you could listen anywhere and hear the latest songs. TV commercials had gotten
    so frequent I gave my TV to someone I really didn't like. That was 5 years ago, I missed it for 2 days.
    Charter Cable called to solicit me this morning, I didn't listen, I hung up. Was I wrong?
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      Oct 23 2013: Are you sure you are 'listening'?

      Perhaps what you are doing is "hearing" what they say.

      Hearing and listening are, in my understanding, two distinct things.

      Have you actually listened to what the individuals have said and retained any of it?
      • Oct 23 2013: Mary, Alas, I feel chastised...
        You may be right. Or I may have had a bad day.

        If you refer to the religious part, then you are right.

        My belief in God come from my earliest church going.
        The Church of Christ in Chandler, Arizona, 1944-45
        While my folks slept in on Sunday, they sent us off to
        Sunday School. Something there made an impression.
        I listened, and must have retained something. I can still
        sing the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers.

        I do believe in God. But not religion. Maybe I am just lazy.
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          Oct 23 2013: Frank......I was not chastising....I often see the male members of my family "hearing" the females, and even the children....but not really "listening" to them.

          Your candid reply resonated with me......and I made the connection.

          I too find it hard to believe in religion.....I much rather believe in God.
          It is not laziness Frank. It is wisdom. :)
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      Oct 28 2013: Frank, are you saying you are listening to him when you don't want to? Doesn't that feel like a waste of your time?
      • Oct 29 2013: Hi Greg,
        I don't think I listen often to my conscience, or to God. Instead, I just try to live better
        than I lived before. My daily mantra, when I remember it, is to say, when I get awake,
        "Think Good Thoughts.".

        But man's religions tempt me from time to time to find out more.

        Today the book I am reading is "Islam and the Arab World".
        The print is too small even with my glasses.

        On my Kindle I am reading "The Tragedy of the Templars".
        I can make the print work.

        At my age, it really does feel like a waste of my time.
        Whenever I've been involved in an accident, or lost my money,
        or had to walk around the block and drink a cold glass of water
        after a fight with my wife, or anyone else, since she and I have
        been separated now for 30 years, I always seem to exclaim,
        or did, "Oh God, Why Me !!!"

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          Oct 30 2013: Frank,
          I love your better than I lived before..."Think Good Thoughts". I LOVE to focus on good thoughts, and I also like to be informed of what is happening in our world, so that means there are thoughts sometimes that remind me of the challenges we face in our world. Every morning, when I wake, my heart and mind are aware that this is the first day of the rest of my life. I don't have the feeling that any moment of the life adventure is a "waste of time". I like to "BE" here NOW:>)

          You mention that you are reading "Islam and the Arab World", and I recently read "Understanding Iran". Although religion seems to be a big contributor to the challenges, these books also provide information about history, geography, political and socio-economic conditions and culture.

          After a period years ago, in which my parents died, I was ending 24 years of marriage, diagnosed with cancer, and sustained a near fatal head/brain injury, I often asked....why me? I finally got to the point of realization when I asked...why NOT me? And said to with it Colleen with as much courage, consciousness and love as you can muster in each and every moment through the challenges

          You are SO right my each and every moment of the life adventure:>)
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      Oct 30 2013: Frank...
      Regarding your neighbor....."... a nice chap, visits me several times a week". Is there a balance that you can create with your neighbor? How would it be to tell him that now is not a good time because I am doing something else? Could we visit another time? Propose a time that works better for you as well as your neighbor?
      • Oct 30 2013: Colleen,
        Thank you for your understanding and advise.
        I believe that both questions Greg Dahlen has asked can be answered here.
        My neighbor, Richard, is actually a close and dear friend, and I shouldn't treat him
        with such a disregard. He is a funny fellow, with a joke remembered for every
        situation. He and I have a friendship, of 20 years or more. We worked together,
        and later he worked for me. and now he lives in the same apartment complex.

        His grandson, Ryan is in college now, but years earlier, Richard would bring him to
        work with him on a Saturday, and he would play under his desk. Now-a-days,
        on a Saturday, Richard drives me to the Supermarket. I really cannot shut him out.
        He has become family, and knows more about my family's happenings than I do.
        Sometimes I have to chastise him when he takes sides in some argument of theirs.
        Richard counsels my son, who tends to not want to tell me his deepest and darkest
        problems he wrestles with. The upshot is that Richard must be listened to, and I do.

        I want to say that Richard is a bad listener. He interrupts if I say anything during his
        conversations. If he is trying to make a point, he will often get mad at my interruption.
        But, mostly he just changes to another subject, and continues.

        Richard is happy. Long divorced, 26 years of sobriety, he owns a sewing machine
        that he uses to make carpet items for English sport cars. He makes enough money
        to pay for his needs, and stays in communication with his family daily, by phone.
        His grandson, Ryan, of Vietnam and American heritage, was raised with oriental
        values that do not allow improper deportment. Thus Richard's grandson makes his
        life a joy.
        I see Greg Dahlen is from Glendale, California, where I grew up to eat double-decker
        Bob's Big Boy hamburgers, French fries, and a Coke, Friday and Saturday nights
        sitting inside a '40 Ford with my buddies, Chuck Miller and Richard Dodds.
        Varoooom !!!
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          Oct 30 2013: Frank,
          Trying to understand is my pleasure:>)

          Your neighbor sounds like a good friend and neighbor. I did not perceive you treating him with disregard. When I read your previous comment, it just sounded like he showed up to talk when sometimes you may have had other things to do.....which is why I offered some ideas:>)
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      Oct 30 2013: Frank,
      I had a similar situation years ago when I moved to a new neighborhood. A lovely neighbor came over to visit ALL the time. I wanted to be polite, respectful and neighborly, so at first, I invited her in, and patiently listened to her. Then she started calling, to ask me to come over for advice about her garden, help with chores, etc....which was all fine......except......I realized I was often not getting stuff done that I wanted to do.

      So, I started to tell her sometimes that it was just not a good time because I was involved with a project or something like that......whatever I was honestly doing. If I was not involved with something, I visited. I also realized that her request for me to come to her house was a desire to simply visit, so I did it at a time that worked for me. She would ask me to take her to the store NOW, because she HAD to buy a birthday card, and at first I complied, because I genuinely wanted to help her and be a good neighbor. Then I found out that the person she HAD to have a card for that day, did not have a birthday for a couple months down the again I would help, but not always at the exact moment that she wanted it. I often said....I'm going over to the store tomorrow morning at such and such a time, and I can take you then.

      I believe that with our ability, desire and willingness to help others, we also need to take care of ourselves. So, we can sometimes alter the situation, while still being a friendly, respectful, caring, listening neighbor and friend:>)
      • Oct 30 2013: Colleen,
        You keep beating me to the punch, with another wonderful story.

        20 years ago ---
        Mrs. Gray, was an 80+ year old lady, who befriended me, and was a joy to talk with.
        She enjoyed the Horse Races, so one day I invited her to attend the Watch and Wager.
        I drove us there. She had a fine time, betting on every horse in every race.

        Later on, she appeared at the Watch and Wager with some girl-friends, and
        I watched as they had a great time also. I noticed she still bet on all the horses.

        Mrs. Gray was the most out-going "good listener" I've ever met. She never stopped
        telephoning friends to get them involved in long conversations and would listen
        carefully to what they said. She actually kept a pad and pen, and wrote notes
        during her conversations, which she subsequently tore up and trashed. She was
        never mean with gossip, and worked hard to make new friends every day.

        I decided to learn to do the same. But, I am not social at all, and never have sought
        new friends. Friends just appear from nowhere. I am socially dominate. Probably
        not a good thing to be. I always seem to take charge in any setting. I instinctively know
        that when I enter a room, I will be deferred to, It happens. I don't know why, but it does.
        I suppose it's a male dominance thing, something left from the cave.

        I rate every new person within the first 10 seconds of putting my eyes on them.
        If I get a strange feeling, I turn off, and never engage with them again.
        They fit into my "how can I whip this guy" file.

        These circumstances seem related to my earliest relationships with other children.
        I hated not being the first kid picked to play. I remember, "You can have him" yelled
        after not being chosen.

        Dorsey High School, where I attended one fall semester, I was just a white kid in a
        black kid's school, and when the coach said "go out 40 yards and cut right", I ran down
        the field and turned right. He said that I could go home, I did.
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          Oct 30 2013: LOL!
          Not really trying to beat you to the punch Frank....I LIKE Mrs. Gray....thank you for sharing that story:>)

 you "always seem to take charge in any setting"......what's your "beef" with your neighbor Richard??? LOL:>) I just could not resist:>)
  • Oct 22 2013: what?
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      Oct 22 2013: hahahaha......
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      Oct 22 2013: Now that's what a good reader wouldn't ask ... :o)
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        Oct 23 2013: I would say entropy has affected Entropy's sight and hearing capabilities. ;)
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        Oct 23 2013: How do you know he was reading?
        Could you be sure?

        He could have had his computer on "voice" activation to read the screen.
        Or someone could have read the topic to him because he is recovering from cataract surgery.

        Hmmm..........have you had coffee today?
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          Oct 23 2013: I am absolutely positive he wasn't listening! Read his comment again, if you think, he was... :o)

          Hmmmm, coffee ... :o)
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        Oct 23 2013: I think this has to do with lateral thinking......or am I mistaken?

        Could also be humor...........I've laughed at his short replies before....

        You see what one simple word created......??
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          Oct 24 2013: That was a good one too. :o)

          And yes, a lot of funny conversation! :o)
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      Oct 23 2013: Entropy's comment needs to be seriously evaluated, analyzed, and no doubt some proof of intent needs to be offered........LOL:>)
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        Oct 24 2013: I have run a complete linguistic analysis on it, four dimensional metaphoric interpretations, single line in between reading algorithmic as well as a holistic TED comments profiling...

        So far Entropy seems to have been reading and joking ...

        lol ;o)
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          Oct 24 2013: Good job Lejan!!!

          Actually, this thread of comments probably could be put into Greg's OTHER topic called...
          "What do you do for fun?" :>)
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        Lejan .

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        Oct 25 2013: No fun, just a usual training routine as part of my NSA freelance contract ... :o)

        This comment destroys itself once you have read it. ;o)
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          Oct 25 2013: ROFL........oops......sorry......not supposed to be having fun:>)
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    Oct 22 2013: Don't interrupt people when they are speaking and nod occationaly to show you're listening to encourage people to tell you more.
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      Oct 22 2013: It is interesting that in the deaf community it is perfectly ok to interrupt people......
      And, nodding and making the "Oh, I see" hand sign is a way of telling the speaker that you are you need to keep good eye contact.
      The deaf listen with their eyes, and hands.
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        Oct 22 2013: Yes, I hesitated to put "eye contact"with nodding just now because I know in some countries, eye contact will make people feel embarrassed.But in China, it should be done both in listening and talking.
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          Oct 22 2013: That is very interesting.....I had not thought about that.
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          Nov 10 2013: Good point be aware of cultural differences...which I discovered in Egypt! I typically make eye contact when talking with someone, and I also smile a lot. An older gentleman I befriended in Egypt, told me that smiling and making eye contact with men, was sending the message that I wanted to have a relationship with them!!! I had to adjust my usual practice of eye contact and smiling:>)
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        Oct 22 2013: I can't see why it would be perfectly okay to interrupt people in the deaf community more than in the non-deaf one? Perhaps there are more failures of transmission of information in the deaf community so you need to interrupt more to get clarification?
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          Oct 23 2013: Thank you.I think deaf community is not a normal example becuase deaf people often use hands to communicate instead of mouth. So they see rather than listen. In normal healthy people's world, when you talk flying your fingers in front of other people's faces, it'll be rude and annoying. So I don't think of deaf people as listeners.
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        Oct 23 2013: Yes, I know one example is Japanese people are very shy, when you talk to them looking into their eyes, they usually feel uneasy.I also heard British people seemed to be embarrassed in too much eye contact .:)
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      Oct 23 2013: yoka, if someone were a bad listener, could he or she still have a good life?
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        Oct 23 2013: How bad listener is he ? What symptoms?
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          Nov 10 2013: well, let's say he prefers to talk rather than listen, when he listens to someone else sometimes his mind drifts...