Active Listening

Active Listening


Here are some tips I thought were useful from the Active Listening course on highbrow.


Being an active listener requires a certain internal attitude that will allow us to go beyond our own impressions and expectations. More concretely, it is an openness that allows us to recognize value in others.

However, first of all, it naturally requires…silence. That means no judge, teacher, victim, avenger, moralist, or any other voices that our own prejudices usually manifest as in our heads. And this is what tomorrow’s lesson is all about! 

“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.”

-Maya Angelou


Become aware of the breath that flows in and out of your body. Now pay attention to your mind and make the following affirmations: 

  • I want to know myself beyond my body, my mind, and my emotions
  • I am my own master
  • I am peace and freedom
  • I am not guilty of anything
  • I forgive everything
  • I am silence

Observe how the stream of your thoughts becomes thinner and eventually stops. Whenever a new thought comes, just say “I forgive this thought” and let it pass. Remain in the silence that you are for a few minutes.

Do you have a sense of deep relaxation and freedom? Perhaps even a feeling of joy that has no cause? When we bring this state into our day-to-day lives, it becomes the attitude of openness that is necessary for active listening. We will discuss more about this in our next lesson tomorrow. 

“You are beneath the thinker. You are the stillness beneath the mental noise.”

-Eckhart Tolle


Take a look at the piece of furniture in front of you. If you don’t have furniture available, look at a person nearby. How tall are they?

Please note that there is only one answer that is absolutely correct. This answer is:

“I don’t know.” 

Notice the feeling of recognition and freedom when you allow yourself to admit that you don’t know. There is no feeling of doubt, nor any pressure to defend a certain answer, and no desire to convince others of your truth. You are honest and therefore free.

I don’t know is where learning starts. It is also where real listening starts. You will never be a good listener if you think you already know the person you are talking to or the topic you are discussing. 

We can call it curiosity, and we can describe it like this: “I don’t know, but I want to find out.” Finding out is dynamic, while knowing is static and requires a certain kind of mental blindness.

“I know only that I don’t know anything.” 


We are All One of a Kind

Active listening therefore requires acceptance of our own uniqueness and respect for others’. It challenges us to “first seek to understand, then to be understood,” as Stephen Covey puts it. Constructive communication fails when we try to imprint our own unique measurement onto another’s. This tendency to imprint manifests when we start believing that another’s uniqueness is a personal threat to ours. 

The main purpose of active listening is to discover what uniqueness the interlocutor can bring to the world, how we can encourage them to bring it out, and what we can learn from it. We respect their fingerprint on the world in order to complement our own, thus contributing to and enhancing the bigger picture.

“I dreamed of being special then awoke to be unique.”

-Brian Spellman

The Journalism Game

  • What can you learn from or about them?
  • What makes each person you meet unique?
  • What has worked about the way you asked questions, and what has not?
  • What sort of questions have been most efficient?
  • Were you aware of your own tendencies to judge, generalize, or assume, and how did you deal with them? 

1. Ask open-ended questions

2. Go deeper

When they give a general answer, ask them what that particular thing means to them or for an example of a time when they personally experienced it or failed to experience it. Can you get a story that is theirs and theirs alone? 

“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”


-Chinese proverb

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