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Listening is Not Understanding; It’s Another Person Feeling Understood

Excellent communication is one of the essential skills needed in any relationship, professional or personal. It’s a tomato sauce to your chili, it’s butter to your pie, or it’s a cheese to your pizza. Of course, you can have a relationship without excellent communication, but would it be a good one?

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash
Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

The most significant factor of communication is listening. Like you might have heard before, listening is not hearing. It is quite sad to know that some researches have found that we only remember 25% of what we hear(imagine only 1/4 of your pizza has cheese on it). But the ability to listen well is something that can be improved. The first thing to understand is it’s not about how well you pay attention or how good your skills are; it is about the person you are listening to.

Have you ever walked out of a long meeting to find that you only remember the last bullet points? Or have your partner saying “I told you about this many times” without remembering a piece of it? Believe me, it is something you can avoid in the future.


Imagine this, you have a rough long day at work, you come home and really need to vent it out hoping your partner will be there to listen to you.

Situation A: He sits on a couch being on his phone while listening to you. He promises he is paying attention, and when you ask him to repeat what you just said, he can. Well, in a way he is receiving the message you sent, right?

Situation B: You are on the same couch. He is looking at you while listening to you vent to this same old story at work. He might not be enjoying it, but he keeps eye contact. He doesn’t look at his phone even when there is a new notification. You don’t need to ask him to repeat what you just said, you know he is listening.

I think I might have an idea which one you would prefer 🙂


But then, being an active listener is not an easy thing. You always have something to say back. You have your own story, thoughts, and comments. Especially if what you are hearing is not related to you at the time, it can be easy for your mind to wander elsewhere.

But it is important.

Feeling understood is a universal need. It’s that feeling of being known, empowered, accepted, and loved. It’s knowing that you exist and belong.Don’t you like it when you feel those? And you can learn to give those feelings to other people, too.

Active listening will allow you to listen effectively to get the complete message from the conversation without judgment and interruption. I have been trying to be better at it. I have to admit it’s tough, but it’s also rewarding once you can make a positive impact on someone’s feelings. I recently received a 360 review result back from my company, and one of the comments I received made my day. It said, “keep being a good listener.”

Being a good listener comment from the team
The 360 reviews result I got recently

So I would like to share some tips with you today.

Show You Are Listening

Don’t be on your phone or look another way while listening to a person. Keep that eye contact as much as you can without being weird and keep an eye on the body language. Even if you can still hear and remember all the words while doing a million other things, another person will not feel understood if you do so. Nod with small verbal comments like “uh huh” or “hmm” occasionally.

Hold Judgement

No one like to be judged. A person tells you a story because they trust you enough to share their thoughts and emotions with you. Be open-minded and learn their point of views. Don’t criticize and avoid arguments.

Don’t Assume

It’s almost impossible to understand anyone fully. Remember that the goal is to listen and make another person feel understood. Try to repeat what the other person just said and clarify it.

Encourage

Ask questions to encourage the other person to keep talking. Helping to encourage will also support the person to expand their ideas.

Answer Respectfully

It’s okay to share similar experiences of your own, give suggestions, or show your emotions for this conversation. Just remember to not relate everything the other person is saying to your own story. It’s about them not about you. And make sure you understand the full message that you are able to give a well-informed, respectful thought. It’s not your story; it’s theirs.

Have Empathy

The most important thing I learned personally from my relationships, both professionally and personally, is to have empathy. If the person is releasing negative emotion, they are not a bad person; they might just be having a bad day. The greatest power you have is to make a positive impact on a person and help them with whatever you can.


At the end of the day, everyone is just trying to do their best living this life they are given. Some days are harder than others; you might feel like tornados are hitting your life non-stop. Having a safe space where you can share your story, feelings, and thoughts with someone there to listen might be that cozy warm shelter with a full cheese pizza to help you get through another tornado. 🍕🍕🍕

PS: I also came across this active listening training session from Hyper Island that I believe is a great start if you want to try this at your workplace. Check it out here.

Written by
Chalakorn Berg
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