Are You Listening the Right Way?

Reading Time: 3 minutes


Listening the right way is a continual challenge for most of us.

Even as a therapist, I sometimes have a program running in the back of my mind thinking, I want to make sure this client gets their money’s worth. I must give some enlightenment or wisdom to make it worth their while. In reality, people need to be thoroughly heard and understood first.

If you’re like me, we think we’re listening in our personal relationships. Instead, we’re thinking of how we’re going to respond before hearing what the other person is saying. We’re ready to give an answer rather than listen. We get caught in the trap of wanting to fix the problem rather than listen.

I heard a well-known and respected preacher on the radio recently. His message was all about being ready to give an answer to those who aren’t Christians. He addressed how to answer someone with different beliefs. He didn’t address how to honor their humanity, or how to empathize with them, or how to seek to understand them. There was no emphasis on how to be open to the Spirit of God while listening to the other. The message gave an air of superiority rather than humility.

Jesus models listening to others throughout the New Testament. He took time to dialogue and honored others. I believe Francis of Assisi got it right when he said, May we seek to understand more than being understood. 

As I sat under Dr. Dan Seigel’s teaching on interpersonal neurobiology, one of his quotes stood out to me. It affirmed what I believe Jesus modeled and how God designed us to be in relationship with others. In reference to brain health and well-being, he said,

“Feeling felt is healing and is likely the most important feeling we can have.”

If we learned to listen well, we head in the direction of restored relationships. If we grow to listen well, we invite others to hear us. If we listen well to those we’re closest to, our hearts would be renewed. We are designed to feel felt by those who mean the most.

I’ve made minor adaptations to this poem by Anonymous. It’s a reminder for us to honor the dignity and worth of others. May we recognize our own longings to be heard and understood.


When you ask me to listen to you

and I start giving advice,

I have not done what you asked.

When you ask me to listen to you

and I begin to tell you why you shouldn’t feel that way,

I am trampling on your feelings

When you ask me to listen to you

and I feel I have to do something to solve your problem,

I have failed you, strange as that may seem.

Listen! All you asked, was that I listen,

and not talk or do or fix – just hear you.

And you can do for yourself; you are not helpless –

Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.

When I do something for you what you can and need to do for yourself,

I contribute to your fear and weakness.

But, when I accept your emotions and respect what you feel,

no matter how irrational it may seem,

then you can quit trying to convince me and

can get about the business of understanding what’s behind the feeling.

And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious and you may not even need advice.

Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what’s behind them.

So, I will listen and just hear you.

And if I want to talk, I will wait a minute for my turn;

and ask you to listen to me.

Questions to Ponder

What is one way you’ve learned to listen well?

How has this poem touched you today?



About The Author

Judy Herman

Judy Herman helps leaders and families create connection beyond conflict through her counseling practice. She writes and speaks about how relationship messes are divine invitations for growing your true self.


  • George Clark

    Reply Reply June 15, 2015

    I truly enjoyed the insight of the poem this morning. Thanks for sharing.

  • Tom Norvell

    Reply Reply June 15, 2015

    Great words on the importance of listening. The poem “Listen” is great! I have found the most important and significant act of love I can give another human being is simply to listen to them…what they say and what they do not say.

  • Andy Staab

    Reply Reply June 15, 2015

    This was enlightening to me. Listening is so hard to do and yet such a simple act. This gives me a lot to think about. Thank you.

    • Judy Herman

      Reply Reply June 16, 2015

      Yes, listening can be simple until the other is perceived as accusatory! More on that in another blog post. Thanks for commenting, Andy.

  • Ken Idleman

    Reply Reply June 17, 2015

    Thank you Judy, for encouraging us in the development of this vital skill which we must all utilize in our marriage, family life and ministry leadership. Effective relational interaction is dependent on having our eyes open to the fact that God has given us two ears and one mouth. We should do twice as much listening as we do speaking. How we listen and process gives content and significance to what we say. Thank you for another thoughtful written piece. [I can’t bring myself to say ‘blog.’ The word sounds too superficial!] K I

    • Judy Herman

      Reply Reply June 22, 2015

      I’ll consider using the term “article” instead of “blog.” Thanks, Ken.

  • Joyce Hague

    Reply Reply April 20, 2016

    Excellent! I especially like the part about evangelizing. We haven’t earned the right to be heard until we work to understand the other person first. People are complex, and we usually don’t know what we think we do about another person.

    • Judy Herman

      Reply Reply April 20, 2016

      Thanks, Joyce. Yes, we need to be curious about another’s journey. And our hearts are like deep waters!

  • Marquita

    Reply Reply April 20, 2016

    Thank you, I needed that!

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