Deep Listening


Every aspect of relationship benefits from deep listening.

Deep listening has been an invaluable tool for me on my path, both in cultivating my own skills as a listener and receiving this gift from others. For me personally, it is the most important skill to cultivate in any relationship. Many people will say “communication” is the most important skill in relationship, and assume the belief that 50% of communication is listening.

But think about this: how much time in an argument do you spend defending your point of view, rather than truly listening to what the other person has to say? Perhaps you have even had the experience of defending yourself in your head, or preparing your response while the other person is talking. When we communicate this way, we are often at the mercy of each other’s egos. One person makes their point, the other person makes their point and this goes round and round in circles, until the ego is ground down enough to come to resolution. But oftentimes, resolve is not even needed! If we feel like we are truly heard, that could possibly be enough to bring us peace in that moment and save us a lot of precious time.

In presence-based awareness, 100% of communication is listening.

Deep listening brings relief. It is free of opinions and judgements. It gives you and the other person a chance to fully express what is weighing on your hearts—hopefully using the tools of Non-Violent Communication too, that’s for another post! Deep listening is the ground for compassionate speech. All of our experience is based on perception, which can be quite narrow. In deep listening, we open ourselves to be very wide, so that we do get stuck in our own ideas about what is right or wrong for someone else. In return, we receive the greatest gift of all—to be fully seen, heard, and accepted as we are.

If you have any questions about cultivating deep listening or conscious communication, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me over a session.


Some pointers for deep listening:

- Body language. Are you making eye contact? Is you breath relaxed? Arms uncrossed?

- Allow the other person to speak uninterrupted. If you have the impulse to cut them off, take a breath, and place your awareness back on them.

- Place your awareness not just on the words they are saying, take into account their emotional state and body language as well. Be observant, not judgmental.

- Try repeating exactly what you hear from the other person, for clarity and acknowledgement. “What I’m hearing is…”

- Notice if you are starting sentences with “But…” or cutting off their flow of expression. (Other example of this are unconsciously playing the devil’s advocate or turning the conversation back on yourself).

- Instead of drawing conclusions or trying to fix the other person, see if you can bring relief with your openness and presence.

This post was inspired by the teachings of Zen monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh.

Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart. Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don’t interrupt. You don’t argue. If you do, he loses his chance. You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing.
— Thich Nhat Hanh