10 tips on how to listen well

We need each other’s stories. Try to take a little time every day to listen.

by Margaret Dulaney — 

All of us engage in conversation of various sorts and most of us can successfully interact to a degree. Yet, how many of us know the difference between hearing and truly listening to another person? Much of the time, we are busy formulating a response before the other person has even finished talking.

Below are 10 tips for moving beyond merely hearing another person to actually listening to him or her.

1. Ask for the other person’s story. In France, the question most often asked of a new acquaintance is not “What do you do?” but instead, “Tell me your story.”

2. Try and keep the mind quiet and expectant. One cannot pour tea into a moving cup. When listening to someone’s story, it is best to try and hold the mind still, without straining.

3. Practice passive listening. Listening is allowing. It is like falling to sleep and letting go.

4. Help the storyteller move through his story. If you sense the storyteller is stuck and cannot move forward, ask what it is that has strengthened him. Our stories are like geodes. Once they are cracked open, they will reveal their crystal inside and disclose their little panes of refracting light.

5. Simply listen to the person’s need to speak his story. Sometimes all that is required is to practice listening with an open heart.

6. Ask gentle questions. A good listener will help the storyteller allow the mind to open, to flick on its own searchlight and uncover its own philosophy and truth.

7. Allow listening to act as preventative medicine. If our stories are allowed to remain closed, carrying the darkness of blame and victimization, they will grow cold and hard, and can eventually make us ill. By helping the storyteller to break open his stories, light and healing are allowed to enter.

8. Help the storyteller to transcend his story. A good listener can help the storyteller to tell a new story — one of transcendence over pain, one that lifts the listener up onto his shoulders, offering him a better view.

9. Create a new way of seeing. Eventually, we will be able to tell our stories of failure and release presumed ill treatment with grace. We will have learned to be grateful for these stories and for the gifts they brought us — ones of courage, humility and enlightenment. We will welcome our next story with the hope of learning more.

10. Make time to listen well. We need each other’s stories. Try to take a little time every day to listen.


Margaret Dulaney grew up with a reading and writing learning disability, yet she was able to overcome that setback and become an actress and award-winning writer. She has recently released the CD, Listenwell Volume One, a compilation of stories from

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 31, Number 4, August/September 2012.

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