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Listening – how it’s viewed differently!

April 13, 2012

We have probably all  heard the saying “you have one mouth and two ears so you need to do twice as much listening as talking” loads of times

Did you know that listening is viewed (now there’s a mix of words!) differently in other parts of the world.

Top tips that will transform how you network and interact with people

A huge thank you to the team at Values Based Leadership for this fantastic article – reproduced in it’s entirety*


One of the many great things about working with multi-cultural teams and travelling to different parts of the world to work with those teams, is that I have the opportunity to learn so much to add to my existing knowledge.

A bit of my recent learning has been about the difference between the Western and Eastern approach to listening.  Listening is a fundamental interpersonal skill and the foundation to excellent communication.

In the West we describe good listening as active listening; which for us means to listen not just with our ears for the voice and tone of voice, but to listen to all aspects of the person’s body language.  The reason we listen is to obtain information, to understand, for enjoyment and to learn.

In the East and in particular China, the verb to listen is:


For me this adds more and encompasses everything about listening in a succinct way.  The Chinese verb to listen is a whole-body experience that involves the ears, eyes, undivided attention and the heart.

The ears – Listening with your ears means that you understand and employ the parts of listening including focusing, understanding and reacting.  It means that you have moved past the hearing stage and made a voluntary decision to listen

The eyes – Listening with your eyes means that you look at the person who is talking.  It means that you observe facial expressions, mannerisms and non-verbal communication.  It means that with your eyes you begin to see what the person is saying even if they are not speaking.

Undivided attention – Your undivided attention means that you have eliminated all distractions and all barriers that may cloud your ability to listen.  It means that you have moved beyond the prejudices and biases that you hold about a person, an issue or a topic.  It means that the person speaking to you is the only thing on your mind.

The heart – It has been said that empathy is your pain in my heart.  This is what listening with your heart entails, sympathy and empathy.  It means that you are able to put yourself in other people’s shoes, inside their head, inside their life and listen to them from their point of view.

So how do you develop your listening?

Take some time to develop your listening skills; you will be amazed at how much more you learn.  Ways to develop these skills are really about practice.  Ask people a simple question like

‘Tell me about your favourite place in the world’


‘What was the best holiday you’ve ever had?’

Then some tips for listening:

  • Work hard to give your complete attention to the person communicating.
  • Avoid jumping to conclusions.
  • Listen for how something is said.
  • Listen for what is not said.
  • Do not overreact; give the communicator a chance.
  • Look for nonverbal signs in the message.
  • Leave your emotions and prejudices behind.
  • Give the communicator eye contact.
  • Stop talking.

By practicing these simple techniques, you will be amazed at how quickly your listening skills begin to improve. You’ll begin to see a major difference in how you feel about yourself and your communication abilities.

If you would like access to more fantastic insights then Voice – Values Based Leadership’s Newsletter can be downloaded here


*It is through being a governor at my local school that I met Karen Frost who is Director of Coaching at VBL – Karen is Chair of Governors!

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