Being A Good Listener


Being a good listener is one of the most important and enchanting life skills anyone can have yet few of us know how to do it. Not because we are evil, but because no one has taught us how and, related point, no one has listened to us. So we come to social life greedy to speak rather than listen, hungry to meet others, but reluctant to hear them, friendship degenerates into a socialised egoism. Like most things it is about education: our civilization is full of great books on how to speak, Cicerus’ ‘Orator’ and Aristotles’ ‘Rhetoric’ were two of the grateast in the ancient world, but sadly no one has ever written a book called ‘The Listener’. There is a range of things that the good listener is doing that makes it so nice to spend time in their company. Firstly, they egg us on. It’s hard to know our own minds, often worrying in the vicinity of something, but do not quite close in on what’s really bothering or exciting us. We hugely benefit from encouragement to elaborate, to go into greater detail, to push just a little further. We need someone who rather than launch forth on their own will simply say those two magic words “Go on”. You mention a sibling and they want to know a bit more, what was the relationship like in childhood, how has it changed over time. They are curious where our concerns and excitements come from. They ask things like “Why did that particularly bother you?”, “Why was that such a big thing for you?”. They keep our histories in mind, they might refer back to something we said before and we feel they building up a deeper base of engagement. Secondly, the good listener urges clarification. It is fatally easy to say vague things, we simply mention that something is lovely or terrible, nice or annoying, but we do not really explore why we feel this way. The friend who listens often has a productive, frendly suspicion of some of our own first statements and it is after the deeper attitudes that they are lurking in the background. They take things we say like “I am fed up with my job” or “My partner and I are having a lot of roughs” and they help us to focus in what is really about the job we do not like or what the roughs are really about. They are bringing to listening and ambitioning to clarify the underline issues. They do not see conversation as the swapping of anedoctes, they are reconnecting the chat that you are having over pizza with with the phylosophical ambitions of Socrates, whose dialogues are records of his attempts to help fellow athenians understand their ideas and values in a better way. Thirdly, good listeners do not moralise. The good listener is accurately aware of how insane we all are. They know their own minds well enough not to be surprised or frightened about this, they are skilled at making occasional little positive sounds, strategic “MMMMMM…” that delicately signals sympathy without intruding on what we trying to say . They give the impression that they recognise and accept our follies, they reassuring us that they are not going to shred our dignity. A big worrying in a competitive world is that we feel we cannot afford to be honest about how distressed we are, saying one feels like a failure could mean being dropped. But the good listener signals early and clearly that they do not see us in these terms. Our vulnerability is something they warm to, rather than they are appalled by. Lastly, good listeners separate disagreement from criticism. There is a huge tendency to feel that being disagreed with is an expression of hostility and obviously sometimes that is right. But a good listener makes it clear that they can really like you and, at the same time, think you are wrong. They make plain that their liking for you is not dependant on contant agreement. They are powerfully aware that a really lovely person could end up a bit muddled and in need of some gentle untangling. When we are in the company of people who listen well we experience a very powerful pleasure but too often we do not really realise what it is this person is doing that so nice. By paying strategic attention to the pleasure we can learn to magnify it and offer it to others, who will notice, hear and repay the favour in turn. Listening deserves discovery as one of the keys to a good society.

100 thoughts on “Being A Good Listener

  1. This video strangely makes me want to engage a friend in deep conversation.

  2. Really learnt alot about listening… Never seen it in this light before…Hope to practise it more and more in my life.

  3. Yes, but… there is also a flip side to the strength of being a good listener. It can become a way of self-righteously protecting ourselves from actually having to share and be vulnerable in a conversation. People DO love a good listener but are rightfully suspicious and disappointed by someone who only listens – who does not respond to the other's vulnerability by sharing some thoughts and intimacies of their own. We owe it to our friends and loved ones to genuinely listen. And then to return their gift of vulnerability by letting them listen…

  4. In an area where texting has seemed to replace face to face interactions, how does one "listen" or add the sympathy or candor behind ones statements over text?

  5. Somebody wrote a book about it. I really recommend The Art of Listening by Michael P. Nichols on that topic.

  6. This is so me. Maybe that's why I can easily get along with literally anyone. But I don''t talk too much coz I can easily tell that the other end is not interested or listening as well as I am

  7. Fantastic video, this will help. I've realized that I listen to reply way too much and completely suck at listening. I'm currently on a mission to improve that. I might make a video on my findings and progress.

  8. is it possible to dislike our own mother? Im not talking about being momentary upset or angry… a permanent separation and dislike… is it patological?

  9. Not that but I have a really low attention span unless you're talking about something I find interesting.

  10. I tried all these tips when I hung out with a friend, she later told me it was a satisfying conversation. Thank you very much! I subscribed!

  11. damn i never realized that i was a good listener :3
    ty school of life. But at the same time i realized how superficial most people in society are thx to your video. Keep up the amazing and insightful content
    I srsly wish philosophy would be a main subject in school so that kids in school learn to think about themselves adn that your videos would be shown like everytime a class has philosophy .

  12. The problem becomes when someone is a good listener but does not speak their mind, which has no relation to confidence

  13. Oh, one of the times I've been really listened to, was when doing a report in front of a panel… And somehow those were also the times where I really didn't want to speak.

  14. I love that I relate and believe so much of what this channel says… And in such an simplistic and understandable way.

  15. I think I am quite a good listener and an introvert. I have some friends that like to talk though I noticed something.
    The longer the conversation goes it is hard for me to keep my concentration up and it is getting really stressful IF – the friend that's talking to me doesn't show much interest in my life and my feelings.
    If I feel that my counterpart is interested in me, I am capable of listening for hours and hours and enjoy it.
    On the other hand With the other friends I have a really hard time. Since I can't end the conversation well without feeling guilty of not listening properly.

  16. Is it just me or is the volume in this video low.. or should I be working on my listening skills..😁 .. great video enjoyed the content tho👍

  17. You will write a book called the listener!!

    And I LOVE this video, beacuse I am actually very, very good at the three first parts of listening. The last one, the disagreement, is another story. My problem there is that I have the feeling that I can never disagree with anyone beacuse I think that other person will never ever accept my disagreement but just try to fight me harder and harder until we kill each other. That's my fear no matter how riddicolous it sounds. And offcourse what I should have is the confidence to be the person that tells the OTHER person that its ok that we disagree with each other, but beacuse I have a tendenecy to just "forget" all of my own opinions in company of someone elses strong opinions (when they are directed at me), I'm just terrified.

    But still people, most of the time, LOVE talking to me. And I do find endless interest in trying to search deeper into almost every persons mind (as long as I dont specificly dislike them, then it just disgust me). I know myself well and I can with ease translate "I really do love myself!" into "I have no idea how to love myself.." for example. And most of the time, sooner or later, something comes up with that person to prove that I was right. Wich, ugly as i might sound, is very satisfiying. Guess that is the ugglier part of my intererest.. to prove to myself that I CAN be right about someone.

  18. Unfortunately, it seems that so many people are so bad at adequately expressing themselves, or putting themselves out there to begin with that it makes it very hard for us to be good listeners in the first place, because so many people subordinate how they feel to "having a good time."

  19. I think I’m a good listener but sometimes it gets tiring because no one seems to be a good listener to me and it makes me shut down on wanting to connect with people

  20. Man why did you stop talking, I could listen to you for year, you obviously know more then the me that’s a first, I am thankful you exist that reassures me everything is relative,and you reassure me that everything is relative. And for a brief moment, I am humbled and acceptances of an intellect greater then my own. You see I’m only 140 iq and like 4 eq. I am painfully aware about how I don’t fit in. Your videos are like breaths of fresh Air, I’m sorry to say. You have a subscriber for life.

  21. Wish I would have known this before I met a girl for coffee yesterday. So focused on her I had to keep asking her to repeat everything

  22. When we think of a Society we must think of the people. When we think of the people we must also think of the heart. Sometimes the heart desires very simple things. The heart holds within it all that is most precious, all that we must protect. Invisible wounds are the hardest to heal, for their closure depends upon the love of others. On patience, understanding, and the tender gift of time.

    But so much can be made bearable by love. By cherishing what is, and not condemning fault or flaw. By not simply listening to another person, but hearing them. By keeping hearts open and holding each other forever in the light.

    Everybody wants for someone to see the hurt done to them and set it down like it matters. If we took the time to that, there would be much less pain and anger polluting this world.

  23. Listening leads to understanding, understanding leads to good communication which promotes discovery of our human nature

  24. God damn it I just keep thinking about Skyrim and the Dark Brotherhood when ever you say Listener

  25. I’m a good listener in person, but horrible when texting. I feel bad after every conversation through text. I feel I didn’t fully understand the other person.

  26. I understand and appreciate the concept of disagreement without criticism. However, I'm not sure how to put it to practice. How can I let someone know that I will still like them even if we disagree without blatantly telling them so? It would be an awkward thing to just blurt out. It could also easily come off as condescending.

  27. Damn, and here I thought I simply didn't like the small talk that everyone else seems to love to drone on about, but really I'm a good listener (to a variable degree) by wanting to understand more about a person and seek introspective interpersonal knowledge over small talk as well as helping others as much as I am able. I always beat myself up about it, but I've always felt conversations should be a two-way street and never shallow. Sure, I've got some lister-levelling-up to do, but this really validated that I have all that natural characteristics for it, I just need to get better with how I go about it. Thanks, The School of Life!

  28. Who can write a book about being a good listener ? Examples numerous…? In cartoon firm a bonus…?

  29. Yay! The only 'social' skill I have developed and that I'm actually proud of. Even other people tell me that I'm a great listener.

  30. I'm rather good at speaking. Confident, ETC. But I wish I didn't feel the urge to talk so much.

  31. I love the voice of the speaker # The School of life..😍 his voice is mesmerizing😊…

  32. The School of Life’s comment section is one of the best, if not the best, on Youtube. So much enlightenment!

  33. I used to work as a VIP Casino Hostess at a casino for 3 years. Try listening to thousands of gamblers, complaining about losing money😁

  34. This is ME, ME, ME !!!!!
    But, doesn't this just equate to us being nosey + empathatic and curious??
    lol..

    And what are good careers for empathic listeners ?
    Suggestions?

  35. While I was watching the video I heard the speaker use the the word firstly. This is not a word. Drop the -ly and use first instead. Good thing I was listening. lol

  36. "Nobody has written a book called 'The listener'"

    Well, FWIW Robert McCammon and Taylor Caldwell have 😂
    https://www.amazon.com/Listener-Robert-McCammon/dp/1587676133
    https://www.amazon.com/Listener-Taylor-Caldwell/dp/0884111660

  37. what a stupid nerd he is questioning my rights of listening this nerd should go eat some cranberry applesause

  38. Such a simple activity that creates healthy relationships. Another way to think about it – listening inspires curiosity that opens the door for creativity and experience.

  39. I have noticed that I am a good listener,,,,,, ostensibly.

  40. The most frustrating thing is when you have a “great listeners” relationships. You both hate talking for long and love listening, which as a result leaves both of you having a weird silence.

  41. So what if I do all of these but simultaneously interject with my own opinions and suggestions? Am I just a dickhead?

  42. sometimes you get distracted or are in your own head. I try to listen but sometimes my mind is on its own train.

  43. i wish i was a good listener, it is affecting my life in a very bad way

  44. i'm glad to know i already follow these when talking to people, esp. my friends. the #1 way to keep a conversation going and keep people interested is to ask good questions and be genuinely interested and engaged, worked for 5 straight hours of conversation on a girl i knew in passing, now we're good friends.

    probably should work on the speaking part, though… asking questions and finding yourself engrossed in their stories helps a lot when it comes to people who can talk for long periods of time about themselves, but the problem is that i don't find myself nearly as interesting as i find them

  45. The first time someone told me I was a great listener was after I had gone through a traumatic time and lost my long-time friends, was all alone and happened to talk to her. So I put 110% to listening to her, every second felt like I was lifting the heaviest weights with my brain, I was that focused, and I got 128 IQ so it's not because I'm stupid. It's just that when you really listen it can take some real effort. Especially these days when people are used to watch videos about things they wanna learn about and all this quick and easy way of life. You need serious patience to be a good listener, and very serious focus. A good listener can listen intently things that he doesnt give a flying fudge about.

  46. I love listening to people. Understanding and connecting how make the person who they are is seriously an art

  47. I'm a decent listener and people enjoy talking to me… Or rather, talking AT me. I can listen, and listen, and listen and very few people return the favor. It feels like you only exist to make other people feel good. I'm studying to become an educational psychologist to help children, so I'm cultivating becoming the best listener I can be, but when it comes to my personal life… Good lord, people just want their ego's stroked. =

  48. Listening is hard for me because ideas go over my head. I don't interrupt people, but only because I don't know what is the right thing to say. There are more to being a good listener than the tips in this video. At some point, the ball for the conservation falls on my lap, and I always drop the ball.

  49. A note on being a good listener: Alain de Botton's soft, clipped voice makes most of his videos difficult to grasp.

  50. I wanna talk about myself to others, But it makes me feel selfish…
    And I’m not a good listener…Any advice?

  51. I cannot listen to others cuz i become too much exited to share my story or opinion lol😅

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