Opinion | Perfecting the Art of Listening

To the Editor:

Re “9 Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Talks” (column, Nov. 20):

David Brooks beautifully describes ways of having deeper talks. His essential message is that we need to listen with genuine interest in the person we are talking to. But listening isn’t easy.

First, we have to realize that we don’t listen. Half of us complain that the other half isn’t listening while the half being accused are themselves complaining that they are not being heard.

Second, we need to identify our non-listening habits: interrupting, defending, advising, problem-solving or thinking of what we are going to say when the speaker stops talking.

Only when we break these habits will we truly listen. With such division among us politically there is no better time than this holiday season to follow Mr. Brooks’s words of wisdom and to really listen.

Paul J. Donoghue
Mary E. Siegel
Stamford, Conn.
The writers are the authors of “Are You Really Listening?: Keys to Successful Communication.”

To the Editor:

I would add one more way to really listen: Be vulnerable. We cannot invite deep conversations unless we allow other people the power to change our minds.

Political conversations, in particular, tend to be shallow and transactional, even scripted. We are trying to get like-minded people to consider political action. This is all for the good, but it is not sufficient given the divisions in our country.

Instead, we need to be brave enough to talk to people who do not agree with us, and to listen long enough to really begin to understand their perspective. I cannot change anyone else unless I am willing to be changed by them.

Stephen Baum

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