Becoming a better listener and how I am working towards this goal

Advertising | The copy of this book was provided by the publisher – my thoughts and opinions you read here remain my own.

I’m struggling with not being patient enough to listening closely what people have to tell me for a long time. And it’s been on my resolution lists not once but a few times to become a better listener. I know it’s important to hear other peoples voices, don’t interrupt them and hear what is said. So it’s no wonder it made it on my 101 goals list as well. I was more than happy when I saw this book “Die Macht des Zuhörens” by Dr. Michael P. Nichols hoping to give more insights on how to actually achieve it. Even more happy when I received it as a copy by the publisher for review.

The Lost Art of Listening – What this book is about

Goodreads summery: Why do we often feel cut off when speaking to the people closest to us family members, friends, or colleagues? What is it that keeps so many of us from really listening? Michael P. Nichols answers these questions and more in this thoughtful, witty, and helpful look at the reasons people don’t hear one another. His book, a guide to the secrets of listening and being listened to, is filled with vivid examples that clearly demonstrate easy-to-learn techniques for becoming a better listener. He also illustrates how empathic listening enables us to break through misunderstandings and conflict and to transform our personal and professional relationships. 

The book is structured in four main parts:

  1. Yearning to be Understood → Der Wunsch, verstanden zu werden
  2. The Real Reason People Don’t Listen → Die wahren Gründe für das Nicht-Zuhören
  3. Getting Through To Each Other → Zueinander Durchdringen
  4. Listening in Context → Zuhören im Kontext

Dr. Michael P. Nichols includes a lot of examples from is work as a therapist in this book. This often helps making a point or illustrating a situation. Every once in a while he plays out the same situation from both perspectives giving the reader an example of what it means to “put yourself in the other person s shoes”. I found this concept very helpful. Throughout the whole book it is never to promote his own (perfect) handling of certain situations. (And I have come across other books where the same concept had exactly that feel.) Instead he induces here and there some charm and wit to his writing maybe even some sarcasm when he writes “of course I never fell into that trap, I am a therapist after all”.

A beautiful inside helps on the way to becoming a better listener

Even though this book is a scientific textbook it reads easy enough but not superficial. I read comparable books and they seemed to not getting it right in explaining complex ideas or situations without loosing some of the authority. They somehow tried too much to be easy to read and hence seemed to me superficial. Does that make sense? Not this one fortunately.

Each chapter was about 20-30 pages long. I read approximately one in a sitting and I recommend that. At the end of every chapter there were really approachable and doable exercises. I have only read through them as I didn’t have the patience to wait until I finished them (sometimes it says within the next week…, over the course of the next interaction with family members, etc.). However I think now that I have read the book cover to cover I will take another approach and look at it more as a work-book and do those exercises.

A thing I really enjoyed is the layout of the book. I recently read that the old style of textbooks where you only have chapters divided by paragraphs do not work in our low-attention-spanned society anymore. Books need to read more like social media snippets. And this book really gives you all this. It has a ton of really cool (tweetable) quotes and short summaries braking up the texts. Best about it: the author didn’t just pick a sentences from the previous text and have it set in a different type and font. No it is actually a condensed sentence of the idea or thought previously discussed. Additionally there are text passage with grey background for in depths info making the book even less monotonous.

Becoming a better listener is hard work

Now you might wonder if it is worth reading 300+ pages in a textbook to work on yourself. I’d say yes. This book has given me a better understanding and guideline as “Nonviolent Communications” even though a lot of principals are similar. Michael P Nichols never says it is an easy task to become a good listener though. It is hard work that in the end pays off – in all of life relationships. To convince you to have a look at this book I share some of the underlined text snippets in my copy with you:

  • Most problems of understanding don’t correlate with egoism or bad intentions but the need to say something. We concentrate on what we will reply instead of listening what is said.
  • It needs two people to share a feeling– one who is speaking, one who is listening.
  • When we detect sadness or depression in a person we often assume that something is wrong, something has happened. Maybe the “something” is that no-one is listening to that person.
  • When people don’t listen to us we we automatically look to blame them: They are egoistic and disrespectful. (When we are not listening it is because we are tired or bored or the other person was disrespectful with us.)
  • To show real interest in other people we need to set aside our interest.
  • Real listening is a strenuous and silent process.
  • Our own prejudices are functioning as a filter of what we are hearing and how we react to it.
  • People who have learnt in their childhood to show themself dignity are better listeners.

This is just a few snippets of wisdom. I am sure onces I read through the book again I will mark different passages.

The book in German translation “Die Macht des Zuhörens – Wie man richtiges Zuhören lernt und Beziehungen stärkt” has been published through Narayana Verlag. The original titel is “The Lost Art of Listening – How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships” written by Michael P. Nichols.

2 thoughts on “Becoming a better listener and how I am working towards this goal

  1. That sounds REALLY interesting. I think I am a good listener (I usually let other people talk more than talk myself LOL), but I am sure there are valuable lessons here for everyone! I’d love to read this book, too!
    Good for you for taking the time to read and learn about how to become a better listener.

    1. It really was a good book. Quiet a few things are common sense and things you’ve heard before but it’s always good to hear it in new context. Good for you for already being a good listener.

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