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Jo’s Journey – A Somewhat Irreverent Guide to Doing Anything Better

The Art of Listening


Whimsical illustration of girl listening with her hand to her ear, by Joana MirandaI like people; in fact, I’m so interested in them, that when they share something with me,  I can always come up with a sympathetic story of my own to share.  Sometimes, I care so much I go ahead and give them advice, too.

That makes me a great listener, right?

Hmmm…I guess not.  As I’ve come to understand, sympathetic sharing and the giving of advice isn’t listening.  It’s sharing and giving advice – and generally someone who needs “an ear” is NOT looking for either thing.

Whimsical illustration of girl pouting, by Joana MirandaI wish I could say that I’ve come to this understanding on my own and that the journey has been smooth, but that’s just not true.  For as many times as I’ve complained to my husband because a friend or relative didn’t LISTEN to me the way I wanted or needed, he’s let me know that I’ve stepped on his toes by interrupting (why doesn’t he just speak faster then?) or by offering him advice when he, too, just needed to vent (I didn’t know men did that).

All joking aside, I do believe that truly listening is one of the most special gifts you can offer another person.  When I am operating as my best self, I try to listen to others as I would like to be listened to in return.  I try to listen with:




Compassionate understanding

A non-judgmental attitude


The belief that the speaker has the skills necessary to resolve their own issues.

How about you?  How do you listen?

Whimsical illustration of black old-fashioned phone, by Joana Miranda


  1. Great post, Joana! I try to do the same things that you are talking about, and I too, have had the misunderstanding that it’s OK to give unsolicited advice to people conversing with us. I guess the most important thing that I try to remember is to stick to “I statements”. So, “I hear that you are feeling frustrated about your day with so-and-so”, or “Sounds to me like you might be looking to change this situation”, “I feel thusly about the story you’ve just told me”. So it’s always, how does the person’s story make ME feel?

    The compassionate understanding that you’ve mentioned reminds me of what my old pal Jim Morningstar calls “using my holy vision”. To Jim, holy viison means “looking past the picket fence of personality” to access the person’s “higher self”, and thus accessing our higher self.

    • Hi Helen,

      You’re friend Jim sounds very wise! And you’re wise, too, to use the “I” statements. Of course, the hardest part is remembering to use all of these techniques when what’s being discussed is a hot-button topic…not that any of us have hot-button topics, right?;-)

      Speaking of HOT, we’re having a very hot 4th of July here. I had to go down to the NYU area this morning to teach a student. I enjoy teaching her a lot, but her apartment is hot and she doesn’t always turn on the AC. Thankfully, today she must have seen me start to melt, because she finally turned it on.

      Happy 4th!

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