For goodness sake, listen to me!


“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

I was listening to Richard Bacon on Radio 5 yesterday as he was interviewing David Frost, who was sharing a story about his interview with Richard Nixon.

Just as David got to the climax of the story in came Richard Bacon with a new question taking the discussion off in a completely different direction, thus losing what might have been a very interesting snippet about a famous series of interviews.

Why do interviewers do this? Jonathan Ross is another who is more interested in asking questions than in listening to the answers. Ross takes it to a new level in that he rarely seems to listen to the answers he is given with his focus more on making himself look good than finding out anything interesting about his guests.

The best TV interviewer I have seen is Michael Parkinson, as he asked a question and then gave the interviewee time to sit and think out loud about their answer to their question. He didn’t rush in with another question, instead he sat there quietly and allowed the other person the space to talk.

The Richard Bacon and Jonathan Ross style of listening happens in normal life as well. When you are listening to someone do you find yourself thinking or doing  any of the following?

1) Thinking, I know exactly how you feel, the same thing has happened to me and so on.

2) Finishing other people’s sentences

3) Talking over someone

4) Interrupting to give your view or to ask a question

5) Thinking about what you are going to say while you wait for them to stop talking or draw breath.

Has any of the above happened to you when you are talking to someone? How does that make you feel?

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ~ Stephen Covey

There are four different levels that we can listen at and if we are to really connect with people we need to start listening at different levels to those we normally use.

What type of listener are you?


At the cosmetic listening level, we are being polite and basically making small talk.

At the conversational level of listening we are interested in “what’s in it for us”, and is usually about the need for information and building initial connections.

At the active listening level, we are hearing the language the other person is using to describe how they feel about situations and we will pick up phrases that describe the emotions of the other person; happiness, anger, excitement, frustration and so on.

When we get to really deep levels of listening though we are picking up on body language, tone of voice and what is not being said. To get to this level though we need to quieten our minds and really focus on the other person and what is happening for them as they talk. Being able to relay back the sense of how they are feeling about a situation allows us to make real emotional connections and encourages trust and further sharing of what is important.

Using the power of silence when listening is a skill and produces effective listening, making the other person feel valued as they are really listened to. Perhaps Richard Bacon should watch back David Frost’s interviews with Richard Nixon to see how much more you can learn about someone when you practise active and deep listening!

For yourselves, why not try using deep listening with your partner, your children or your colleagues? You will not only suprpise yourself, they will also see you in a different light!


This is the problem with dealing with someone who is actually a good listener. They don’t jump in on your sentences, saving you from actually finishing them, or talk over you, allowing what you do manage to get out to be lost or altered in transit. Instead, they wait, so you have to keep going.”

~ Sarah Dessen

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