Listening Is A Human Need?

When it comes to listening, people usually want to know "how can I get people to listen to me?" 

They can site incident after incident of how a boss, coworker, or family member doesn't listen and the rift it is causing. They recognize the problem and are living testimonies of listening gone wrong. 

So here is my question. If you know first hand how frustrating it is not to be heard, then why aren't you doing all you can to make sure you aren't causing that same frustration to others? 

In this post, I talk about listening as a need and reveal 4 ways you can become a better listener.

In psychology, there is a theory of human motivation called Maslow's hierarchy of Needs. It is a theory leadership and learning professionals have used to help understand what motivates human action.

Among other things, the theory suggests that when there is a deficiency in the basest of human needs; particularly, safety, love, and esteem; individuals can become anxious and tense and act irresponsibly from those feelings.

It amazes me to see the lengths people will go to just because they do not feel heard. 

Hearing and listening are different [<<Tweet that]

It is our job as good listeners to let our speakers "feel" like they have been heard.

Superior listening skill is the cornerstone of BRAVE Communication because as one proverb says "to give an answer before listening is folly". Yet we do it all the time. We assume we know what the other person is going to say. 

In fact, we rehearse our rebuttal in our minds in order to come up with the best counterpoint. Somewhere in our society, we bought into the lie that listening equals agreement.

It doesn't. Listening equals understanding. The heroine in the Disney movie Brave was motivated to drastic, desperate, and dangerous action all because she felt unheard. Many words were exchanged but no one was listening.

We don't have to visit the world of fiction to see people take such dramatic action to feel heard. Lawsuits, arguments, bullying, and protests all have a deficiency in listening at their core.

Though Maslow's theory has its share of critics, the point is that humans are motivated or have a need to be valued, heard, and respected. Without that, frustration bubbles and causes anxiety and tension.

Who is going to say the buck stops here? Though people around you may be horrible listeners, you don't have to be
You can initiate a better way! 

Leaders lead by doing what others don't want or aren't willing to do. [<<Tweet that]

In the beginning of the post, I asked a question. If you know first hand how frustrating it is not to be heard, then why aren't you doing all you can to make sure you aren't causing that same frustration to others? 

One answer could be a simple lack of strategy. What do I do today that can help me? I am so glad you asked!

4 ways you can start today being a better listener:

Determine that in one conversation today you will:

  • Resist the urge to give advice.
There are specific times when advice is needed. But in the incidents where the speaker is venting or frustrated, resist the urge to give advice. Most time people just want to be heard. Try waiting until they ask for your advice. Eventually speakers will get to a place where they have finished their thoughts and turn to you and ask "what do you think?". Because they asked, your advice will be better received.

  • Do not interrupt
Let the speaker finish. If the speaker's story reminds you of a story of your own, DO NOT interrupt and share your story. Even if the story is chocked full of lessons, the speaker won't register them. They'll most likely associate the negative feelings of being interrupted with you, your story, and your advice.

  • Maintain eye contact with the speaker
Multi-tasking is a listening killer! Put down the phone. Don't check or answer email. Get off Facebook. Take the ear buds out of your ears. Give the speaker the gift of your full attention.

  • Seek the "what and why"

As a listener, seek to understand not only the content, but also the sentiment beneath the content. The sentiment is often your indicator of what the speaker is really after.

By following these steps, you can single-handedly start a movement to decrease the tension, anxiety, and desperation that lead to dramatic actions...if you are BRAVE enough.

What problems have you seen as a result of poor listening?


  1. Agree with you 100%. Listening is about respect. http://on.fb.me/1a3Itel