The Power of Listening

By Natasha Sherman

Everything happens in relationship to someone or something. So relationship is the access point to whatever we want. In our human interactions, dialogue is one of the ways we most commonly create the experience of relatedness, and listening is probably the most significant and powerful aspect of our dialogues.  

Whether we are aware of it or not, we come to each conversation with an agenda, usually undistinguished. We come with our already established opinions, and we come with what we want. E.g. To be comfortable, to make an impression, have the person hire us, like us, buy from us, etc. That agenda then has us behave and speak in a particular way. So our agenda makes a difference. And, the access to what we want is through constantly creating an intentional and useful and productive agenda, by design.

I read somewhere that 75% of words are ignored, misunderstood, or forgotten. ‘Misunderstood’ does not necessarily mean that we do not understand the meaning; usually it means we add our own meaning to what is being said. The same article also said that most adults listen actively for only 17 seconds at a time! No one cares to speak to an unwilling or unengaged listener. And we are all in some ways, some of the time, unwilling and unengaged listeners.

Someone once said, “Most communication at the very basic ordinary level resembles a ping-pong game in which people are merely preparing to slam their next point across.” What if we looked at listening as a gift we give to someone, rather than just waiting for our turn to speak? Miracles can occur. It has also been said that, “Being listened to is so close to being loved that the two are sometimes indistinguishable.”

Listening is something that we can practice an entire lifetime and still have more to master. But it is a skill at which we can get better and better – and the rewards are huge. Imagine if we listened to each other like we were watching an enthralling movie, or we listened as if the person speaking had deep and profound wisdom to share, or we listened hungry for knowledge and understanding, or we listened as if they were our beloved, or we listened to the familiar people in our lives as if we’d never ever heard them before, or listened as if what they were saying would one day save our lives. Imagine going into a conversation with one of those agendas, intentionally.

What if every time we spoke to someone, we intended that by the end of the interaction, that person felt heard, understood, taken care of, and related to? Even if we are firing them. This is all about intentional listening, “By Design/Not by Default”™. How do you start to do that? One of the ways is to put it in your schedule. In at least one interaction each day, write down that you will bring a new, specific, intended way of listening. All of your relationships will change.


Natasha coaches individuals and conducts group workshops. She also hosts her own show, “Natasha”, on Princeton Community Television. Archived shows can be viewed at, and also stream at Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 pm ET. 

Life Success Coach
Divorce/Separation/Life Transitions Coach
“Live by Design/Not by Default™”

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