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The L in SALT often relates to 'Listen'.

Last week I wrote a piece in my blog ( about a tool that has helped me to listen better.

So I wondered if people had any more ideas to help people like me to listen better. It is all very well to say that we should listen. But how do we stop hearing only what we want to hear and start to hear what people are saying?

While I would welcome pearls of philisophical wisdom, I am really looking for some practical tools like the one that I learned from John Rwomushana.


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Hi Phil,

Thank you for starting this very important discussion.

In my daily life, I try my best to listen deeply to everyone. This is not an easy thing to do. We have the tendency to not listen very mindfully: we prepare the next question in our mind, if our friend is expressing suffering we think about what we can say to fix the problem, we judge, we compare the persons experience with our experience...It is amazing how quickly we box people into this or this category. Our mind usually is very busy!

Deeply listening is the art of being fully there with the person. You offer your presence 100%. That means that when you listen, you only listen. You empty your mind of judgments (positive and negative), of ideas to fix the persons problem. You try to deeply understand the person.
The person will feel that your presence is genuine. And often what we want when we are expressing our suffering is someone to listen to us, not to fix our problem or to compare your story with other people's story.
That can come later on but first we need to listen deeply.

You can repeat what you have heard from the person, to acknowledge that you understand what he/she said and that you are fully there with him/her. When the person is finished we can ask a few questions that help the person understand his/her situation better. "Why" questions are often useful I find.

A practice that I find really beautiful, proposed by Thich Nhat Hanh. When someone who is close to you is suffering, you can look into this persons' eyes and say this:
"My friend, I know that you are suffering. That is why I am here for you."

This is my experience and I'm still far from practicing this perfectly. But this is my Northern Star, the direction I'd like to take in the future...

I'd love to hear more from others.

Dear Phil,
I totally agree with the meaning of the L in SALT related to 'Listen' which I think is also very much related to 'learn'. Because I do not think that you can learn well if you do not listen.

One of the most precious things that I learnt while doing 'Healing through our stories' was the powerfull connection you can experiment when listening and this is not only something good for the person you are listening to but specially about yourself. Listening make you connect with your inner self while you connect with the other person.

For me, listening is about opening your body, mind and soul to other person, to what s/he is saying/communicating. So you can listen with your whole body: to the words, to the body language, and to the energy. I suppose that 'listening to the energy' is a mix of oral and body language including the emotion that lies behind; it is something that cannot be explained but that can offer a great deal of very important information that makes the communication deeper.

Listening is also a matter of trust. Trust in your own nature, trust in human nature, trust in the process.

While I was conducting the interviews for the project, I could detect and give myself up to the magic of the moment when both the woman and myself where in tune. I had the same experience with every single interview when, after I was able to put myself in the mode of listening in the first one, I understood that is not the ears but the attitude what makes you be there listening.

Ii is funny when I think about it because sometimes I could not even remember the actual words the person said (luckily we were recording the words) but I could listen to that person with my whole body. I think that at that moment I became a safe container where the woman could tell her story.

I think that listening is very difficult because it involves honesty about your internal process, patience to avoid interfering with the other person's process and openness about your fears. It is very difficult because it involves being present and being in the present.

I do not know if this is of any help to you.

Dear phil and Laurenc, I totally agree with both of you that L stands for listening first, if I listening better I learn better if I learn better I can link it better with my/ other's experiences, listening is skill, patial or total listening I think it is depend upon values and attitudes we have at that time; how we acknowledge and recognise the issue and accepting a person with issues, if we accept the issue or person as our own, we listen fully with body ,soul and mind becuse we trust it/he/she is our's not others, so I think better way to practice listening is, to acceoting the person or issues as our own person or our own issue. some times listening need not be a skill, for this I can share my recent experience, when I heard about swine flu first time I was least bothered about and was not intersested to listen, but recent days I am very interested and listening every bit of word related to swine flu because I am accepted the issue as mine and I have been effected by hearing spread of infection and deaths reports around the country/world.some of my friends are link both the issues AIDS and SWINFLU by comparing, Swineflu is danger than AIDS, "a person living with HIV/AIDS can live few years" so the letter " L" from the word SALT visit stands for Listening, Learning and Link also.
this is my little experience, I wanted to listen more and learn more by accepting every respondent is as our AIDS copetant community member

thanking you all
M R Bheri,

As Lau says it’s not easy to be an active listener though I try hard to be one. Listening helps me to understand what the other person is talking about. Careful listening also shows appreciation and respect. In most conversations we are waiting for the other one to finish so that we can take our turn to speak! Let’s put ourselves in other person’s shoes.

Listening is an art, a skill on which one has to work upon. When in doubt, it’s good to ask for clarification. One can try repeating to the speaker what one has interpreted from the communication to confirm what he/she has said. I have experienced that when you begin to carefully listen to others, others too begin to listen more carefully to you. To be interesting be interested.

Hi Phil,

You are right- there are lots of meaningful quotes and profound articles on listening. So you set us a bit of a challenge by asking for practical tips.

Some of the most significant and practical lessons in my life have come from raising kids. And it is from listening to them that I have learned that listening is an act of sheer love. How hungrily we devour every word they say when they come to us in agony, ecstasy or simply to recount an experience! So focused is our listening at that time that we cease to be ourselves, forgetting our worries, aches and pains, even our joys. For me, my listening is so intent when it comes to my children that my awareness of my own self can sometimes diminish completely.

So how do I know that I was truly listening? Note that I use the past tense- because to me true listening is so complete that we are ideally not even aware we are listening when the process is on. I have a simple test to know if I have been truly listening to the other person. That is, if I can remember details of those conversations even after some time has passed, especially details that were not related to me.

Have you noticed that many people say they have a poor memory and cannot remember names and places. Ask them what their child (or someone they love as much) said on various occasions and you (and they) will be surprised. Have you noticed that when in a meeting people introduce themselves we forget the names of most people even by the time they finish the introductions, except of those who interest us. Because we are interested, we listen. And because we listen truly, we remember.

Rituu I agree with what you say but I am a bit uncomfortable about the term “active listening” . Is it not a bit of a misnomer?. If I am truly listening I am a receiver of information, or a container as MariJo says. This requires me to slowly forget myself and only be present to the other. So does that require a level of activity or inactivity of our mind (especially that little voice in the head that starts speaking to us as soon as we start listening?) That does not mean that we do not ask questions or share views. To me it means that what we ask and what we share is about the other person and not about ourselves.

Like Muso Kokushi said - Do not consciously seek enlightenment.

Tall order…still practicing, still failing, still trying.
Dear Meeraji,

Great sharing. Thanks.

I fully agree that we listen carefully when we find something interesting. My definition of active listening is what you describe in your last paragraph. To get totally immersed in what the speaker is saying and ignoring that 'little voice' in our head ( I know what you mean, my Landmark mate!). Its active because we may ask questions to understand better and ensure that we understood what the speaker meant.

I would like to illustrate this with an example. During my graduation, Public administration was my favourite subject. I would sleep through the Political Science lecture, was fairly attentive in History class but was all ears when my Public Ad teacher was taking the class. My concentration has never been as good as it was in that class. My endless questions would often irritate my teacher and she would lovingly scold me, "Rituu, either you don't understand anything or you want to understand everything that you listen so carefully and raise your hand every few minutes."



PS: I like Kokushi's quote.
Thank you all of these ideas. I've tried to pull the threads together (and I confess to adding one of my own). If this leads others to have more thoughts, I am more than happy to keep building on this summary.

Listen to the energy. Listen with your whole body.

(Listening isn’t just about words. It’s about being sensitive to the energy of the person who is speaking. Often someone starts by telling you what they think that you want to hear; when they start to tell you what they really think, the rhythm of their voice changes, often they will start to use their hands, often they will bend toward you, this is often the start of something well worth listening to. You listen with your whole body)

Be interested.

(This doesn’t say ‘pretend to be interested’. It says ‘be interested’. Somewhere in the mind of just about everyone that you talk to there is something amazing, beautiful, astonishing or wonderful. Your task is to surface that fascinating thing. Once you start to make these discoveries your desire to find more will grow. You will be interested. And you will be interesting.)

Be patient.

(Don’t prepare the next question. Don’t interfere with the other person’s thought process. Trust yourself. You have more time than you think. Give yourself space and give the person that you are talking to space. Once you become comfortable with silence, the conversation will go in new, and usually interesting, directions.)

Listen for phrases that please and delight you.
(I read through the texts that people had written. And in that text I read, “Listen with your whole body” and “Listen to the energy.” And when I read those 2 phrases I could feel myself capturing a whole set of my ideas and experiences and linking them with those 2 phrases. Those phrases will stay in my mind. They are so much better than endless pages of text.)

Challenge yourself to learn from this conversation.
(All of the above come from the contributions made during the week. This is my contribution. This is has helped me to listen better. So often we say, “Yes, I learned a lot during this conversation, this visit...” Yes, but what did we learn? Did we just reinforce our own prejudices? Or did we hear something that challenges our current way of looking at the world? Did we hear something that lets us do something different (or experiment with doing something differently). When we challenge ourselves to do this with a conversation, we begin to explore in different places and we listen to find these places.)


Hi Phil,


I came across this related to listening.

"Learn to deeply listen to others and, while listening, acknowledge their inherent value.  “I call it the Namaste practice,” Philip says.  “Listening as if people matter.”  Here’s a Namaste exercise:  When you walk up to somebody, you mentally acknowledge their innate value.  Whether you agree with them or disagree with them, you just acknowledge their value."



Hi Phil,

One of the tools I found helpful to truly hear what people are saying is in summarising or para-phrasing what I feel I have understood the other person is saying. The test to my listening is the response I get from the other party. When his/her response starts with "yeah....", then, I know I have heard him/her. To be able to do this, I have to remain very attentive to what is being said, to the verbal and non-verbal messages in order for me not to miss a point and having the other party responding," that's what what I mean..."

Using this tool has helped me a lot in my counseling work as well as in facilitating groups.

I hope to learn more from the rest as I am still learning to hear what people are actually saying :)


Some practical advice on how to talk less & listen more from

Hi Phil,

I have gone through your blog many times and have had different takeaways. This time it is the title. We indeed need to hone the art and practice of listening...listening with compassion. Thank you.


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