Listening With Ears Wide Open

Attitude of Gratitude, family, self improvement, The Inspired Life

Tap.Tap. Tap…Tap.Tap.Tap…Is this on?

Can you all hear me? OK good. I would like to thank everyone for coming to Life’s Little Inspirations today. It’s wonderful to see so many familiar faces here and welcome to everyone who is here for the first time! Let’s get started then. Quiet, now. Shhhh, we are getting started a little late so I want to get going. If you can all pull your chairs up nice and close and make room for those who are standing in the back of the room that would be great. Wonderful. Thanks.

Today we will be discussing the Art of Listening with Ears Wide Open.  However, before we begin, I would like to present you with an example of what passes for listening a great deal of time in our very busy, over stimulated culture and one very creative man’s solution for handling the situation.

Sir… could  get the lights in the back of the room? …Thanks.


Now, I think we can safely say that this man was listening with his mouth open and his ears closed. In fact, to be more precise, he used an ancient stealth tactic that has been secretly passed down from one generation to the next to get OUT of listening. So, the next time someone suddenly plants a big wet one on you after your long and winding dissertation, do NOT make the leaping assumption that you have just spoken the most inspiring words since Martin Luther King. That person wants you to SHUT UP. They do not care what you have to say.

Kinda hurts your feelings a little bit doesn’t it?

We all want to be heard. There is something inside each and every one of us, a little voice crying out to be heard, thinking it isn’t all that interesting, all that important. So it sits there. Waiting for it’s turn. OR it jumps in, interrupting at odd times and then runs out of steam, never quite gathering up the full power of confidence without the other half of the equation. Someone who takes the time to listen.

The highest compliment you will ever pay another human being is to take the time to actively listen, actively observe, actively care about what is important to that other person. Focus on them. Listen to them. Care about them.


There are many different levels of listening and we go in and out of them several times a day.

Perhaps most frequently in our instant pudding society, we do what I call our:

Scan Listening: We use our ears these days the same way we use our eyes to read. We are too busy to read every word so we scan through what we are reading for relevant details while we are multi-tasking. We do it with our ears too. We do it while our children are talking, while the wife/husband is filling us in on the day and we are cooking/changing/ getting ready for the next transition in our over packed schedule. You can be sure you did it when you hear the words, “Honey, I just told you that.”  ” You did?…I don’t think so…I would have remembered.”

No you wouldn’t have. You were reading the paper/computer. You only would have remembered if she just told you she won two tickets to your favorite team’s game. You were scanning.

If I ask you how many of you here now think you are all great listeners, a good many of you will be happy to raise your hands.

Go ahead and put them up if you want to. While you have them up, let me ask you a question. During that last example of scanning, how many of you with your hands up, just thought back to an example of the last time you were in a situation of scanning behavior?

OK. Good.  Now..for all of you that did, how many of you thought, “That reminds me of the time when so and so said….and then…she said..and then….OH! I wish Wendi would quit talking so that I could have a chance to tell my story. I wonder if I’ll get a chance to raise my hand..will there be comments after????”

Well..yes, there will be comments after, and don’t worry, you are normal. You can put your hands down. That was an example of Reactive Listening, where you are just listening long enough to trigger a response from yourself so that you can share your thought, idea, or in the case of sales people ( and really annoying bad car salesmen) get them to see things your way so that you can get that sale.

What we want to look at today is a form of deeper, more focused listening that has the other person as the center of attention, not us. It isn’t as hard as you might think, you don’t have to be born with it, and with a little practice, you will have moments that will give you very deep inspired connections with others and leave you wondering what you have been listening to all this time.

Got your pens and paper ready?


Keys Points to Listening with Ears Wide Open.

Intuitive Listening

Remember Two ears/ One mouth: It should go without saying that we start here, but somehow it doesn’t seem to be obvious. Sometimes people get hung up on that “Life’s Supposed to be Fair” rule here. Listen close. That rule DOES NOT APPLY HERE. This is not a give and take. They get to talk twice as much as you do. That’s the math equation. If you can get them to talk three times as much, with you just popping in a comment or a question now and them, you are already a pro.

Use Interested Body language  Keep your body language calm and relaxed. DO NOT look at your watch or cell phone. (which by the way should be turned off) Lean slightly forward in toward them, showing interest, eyes looking at them, focused on what they are saying. Nothing says “I can’t hear you” more than eyes wandering around a room taking in the environment.  

Respect Personal Boundaries Different cultures and different people have personal preferences about their personal boundaries. Get too close or get too far away and you have lost them. Look for the subtle signs of them backing away or moving in to you that will let you know their border preferences.

Be Observant Notice the little things. Watch for the flickers in their eyes when they speak of certain things. Was that painful to them? She just started rubbing her fingers back and forth very quickly and chewing her gum faster..hmmm. But she seems calm. Mixed signals? What ISN’T he saying?

Listen for meaning Listen for what they meant to say, not what they said. Don’t assume. If you aren’t absolutely sure, ASK. In this growing multi-cultural world, different places may have slightly different meanings. Heck, maybe even in your own backyard pub. Here is an example a few of you may recall:

Coach: Can I draw you a beer Norm?

Norm: No, I know what they look like, just pour me one.

Poor Norm. He thought he was listening. Oh well. At least he got his beer.

Ask Open-ended questions Asking open-ended questions and questions that clarify what it was they meant let’s them know you are interested and gives them permission to continue. It draws them out and helps them to think through their own thoughts on the subject. They may not have even known how they felt until you helped them to think it all through. You don’t even need to give your opinion, just letting them sort through their own opinion with a good pair of ears is a huge help!

Empathize not Sympathize, and DO NOT JUDGE! They don’t want or need your pity, and they don’t want to be judged. Accept what they tell you unconditionally. Offer your understanding. If you have had a similar experience, share a short, abbreviated version so they can see you really do understand but don’t let it slip into an opportunity to become all about you and don’t give advice unless asked. Be very careful about giving any advice that could be seen as professional advice unless you are a professional. You are here to listen, not give medial opinion. It’s a slippery slope. Don’t get caught going down that hill.

They don’t care what you know until they know that you care.

It is argued who was the first to say that quote, but it isn’t argued how true it is. If people feel that you don’t or won’t take the time to listen to them, then what you in effect have said is-I don’t love you, you don’t matter to me, you aren’t important enough to me to give up my time, my energy or my attention. I’d rather look at strangers on Twitter, Facebook, You Tube or the Boob Tube than to pay attention to you.

Kinda hurts your feelings a little bit doesn’t it?


Please….go out and pay someone the compliment of listening with ears wide open. It is one of the most loving, kindest, caring things you can do for another human being.

Time for comments.

 I’m listening.




24 thoughts on “Listening With Ears Wide Open

  1. I love this post… I hate this post… As I am trying to disappear into Blogland to avoid the ceaseless chatter of my kids this evening, I am now compelled to stop and listen.

  2. Wendi, this is an area in which we can all improve. As more things compete for our attention simultaneously we need to turn off the noise and really focus. I am really going to try to do the world a service and really tune in and listen. Thanks!

  3. Mimi,
    so sorry! I understand, I have been a mother for 31 years with no break! oldest 31, youungest 11! Still my greatest joy though.

    Happy Mothers day!

  4. I try to be a good listener and for the most part I am pretty much an “Ears Open Wide” type of girl. Unfortuately I am all too good at the empathy part, whatever they are feeling, I usually end up feeling it and more.

    I think I need more “Ears Wide Open” people. I don’t think some friends ever really listen to me.

  5. Jenny,

    You are an excellant listener.

    I would agree with you. Sometimes whe people are such good listeners, they attrack great talkers.
    That is when some balance needs to be restorded.

  6. John,

    You can have a kiss,

    but it won’t get you out of listening…:)

    Love, me

    Hey gang…say hi to the love of my life!

  7. I remember reading somewhere that if you tilt your head slightly, it appears that you’re interested and listening intently.

    I deliberately used this trick in a job interview once. I dont’ know if my body language had any effect on my interviewer or not, but I ended up getting the job.

  8. Friar,

    Careful, if you tilt your head forward they think you’re knodding off. 🙂

  9. Well Friar, I can’t give you better advice than that!

    Glad you got the job though 🙂

  10. I think that I am like Jenny. But I think for most people, two ears is not enough.
    Ever hear the expression of “in one ear and out the other”? Maybe if there were more ears, it would bounce around a little in their heads before it actually went out any of them.

  11. Hi Wendi, and Hi to John too.

    I try to be a good listener, however, sometimes it gets me in “trouble”. You see, we have employees who know I will listen to their tales…..and they’re on the clock. Sometimes I just have to cut them short, and say…”let’s pick this up at the end of the day.”

    I love the two ears, one mouth quote. It sends a strong message.

  12. When you take Franklin Covey’s “Seven Habits” course, they give you a small totem pole that says “Seek first to Understand, then be understood”.

    You’re supposed to put this in front of the person speaking, and as long as the totem is in front of them, they can have their say. Only when they’re done, is someone allowed to interupt and add their two cents. Then the totem goes to someone else.

    It’s supposed to teach active listening skills.

    Although I can’t help notice the totem is quite hefty for its size. Sometimes I wonder if it’s meant to be used to BONK someone on the head if they dont’ shut up! 🙂

  13. I always try to be good listener but I have to admit, in my family, if you don’t master the art of interruption, you will never get a word in. It hurts my feelings when I tell people things and later they claim they “forgot” or say they “didn’t hear me.” The truth is they just were not listening. That bothers me. A lot. Maybe because I not only listen to people, I also make a conscious effort to remember what they say. People even do it (not listen/read) in written communications (email). I think it’s extremely rude and inconsiderate.

  14. Wendi,

    This is a brilliant post. I’ve sometimes been told that I’m a good listener, but I think most of the time I do forget to listen to others. If everyone was a good listener, it really could change the world.

  15. Hi Wendi,
    It’s time for me to stop lurking and say Hi – what a great reminder and terrific post. Thank you. The conversation and comments have been interesting too.

    I have noticed that my husband’s attention wanders a little sometimes… and I have been known to start talking about flying bananas and the pink polka-dotted elephant that visited me today. Eventually he reengages with a “sorry love, what was that?” We’ve been married long enough I dont take offence. Serves me right for trying to get my daily word allocation in as soon as he walks in the door 🙂

    I find I am a better listener when I am aware that I am starting my own reaction/ response to their words. Once I know what I am doing, I can stop and bring my focus back to them.

    PS I only hear in one ear, does that give me a dispensation? 😉

  16. Hi Karen! THanks for coming out of Lurking and joining in the community! Welcome! Have a seat round the table and someone will get you something warm and delicious to drink!
    I would be honored if you would consider subscribing and becoming a regular around here!

    My wonderful John ( HI honey) is a very focused man. If he isn’t looking at me, he isn’t listening. He can’t be looking at his computer and hear me at the same time. I KNOW that about him and yet I yammer on while he’s reading his e-mail and I’m doing the dishes. Now, I ask you, WHY do I DO that????

    Probably for the same reason I talk to my dog Maggie while he’s at work. I just talk out loud.

    When I have something important to talk to him about, I make sure we are face to face on the couch or out to dinner, eyeball to eyeball. Then he is a GREAT listener, again, because he is very focused, now he is just focused on me-which I like. 🙂

    PS. About that one-ear hearing thing- I am rather hard of hearing too, and one ear is better than the other. I do think it makes me appreciate listening more. I have to concentrate hard to listen, I have to focus more, look right at someone’s face because often I am also reading their lips to be sure I have really heard accuratly. I hope that people with great hearing appreciate the gift that it is.

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