The Art of Listening (1958)
Title: “The Art of Listening”
Author: DOMINICK A. BARBARA, M.D., F.A.P.A.
Publisher: CHARLES C THOMAS Springfield • Illinois • U.S.A.
Year of Publication: 1958
LOC Catalog Entry: http://lccn.loc.gov/58014063
Copyright Status: Public Domain in the United States and countries following the rule of the shorter term
“LISTENING is an art. To be well performed, it requires more than just letting sound waves enter passively into the ear. Good listening is an alive process demanding alert and active participation.
As an art then, it requires knowledge and effort. It is in essence a mental skill which is developed primarily through training and practice. If we are to learn to know how to listen well, we must proceed as we would in learn-ing any other art such as music, painting, architecture or acting. We must inquire about all the basic essentials of productive listening; and that done, we must practice faithfully until we have mastered the techniques.
The art of listening is not something we can acquire through “do-it-yourself” shortcuts. The good listener “listens between the lines. He constantly applies his spare thinking to what is being said.”And while he is attentive to what is being said, he is also aware of the total facts at hand, both in their verbal connotations and their nonverbal implications.
First of all, the practice of an art requires discipline. It is essential, writes Fromm, “that discipline should not be practiced like a rule imposed on oneself from the outside, but that it becomes an expression of one’s own will; that it is felt as pleasant, and that one slowly accustoms one-
self to a kind of behavior which one would eventually miss, if one stopped practicing it.”2 It is imperative that we be in the mood to want to listen and at the same time consider some of its more challenging aspects. It would be well were we to devote a period of each day to serious listening, this in contrast to the vast amount of super¬ficial listening we indulge in when we meet in various social groups or during frequent coffee breaks.
Concentration is a second prerequisite of good listening. Most of us have difficulty in concentrating. We take a peculiar pride in doing a number of things at the same time. We watch television and read and talk and smoke and eat and drink. Lack of concentration is also prevalent because of our fear of being alone with ourselves. We find it well nigh impossible to sit still, to be silent, to con¬centrate on something specific for any length of time. We become nervous and fidgety and to allay our anxieties, we turn to almost any form of hectic or compulsive activity.
In order to concentrate fully when listening, we should be patient with ourselves. This virtue is as difficult to cultivate as discipline and concentration. In an age of speed reinforced by the use of the airplane, telephone, radio and television, modern man is trained to think that he loses out on time when he pauses to concentrate. He feels compelled to listen only to those facts he digests quickly and is able to keep at his finger tips with as little effort or concentration as possible. To linger on in re-flection over a certain situation or fact goes against his idealized concept of himself as ”a man of action.”
In learning to concentrate, it is most important that we remove distractions in the path of our listening. We can then be alone with our innermost feelings and thoughts and can give to ourselves and our surroundings our whole interest and attention. By concentrating intensely we can keep our ears fully opened to all aural stimuli, and at the same time be curious and alert enough to tune in to our proper wave lengths. We can then listen without too much confusion, apprehension or mental interference.
In listening, it is essential that we give our full attention to the situation at hand. By so doing, we learn to live fully in the present, in the here and now and to evaluate things as they are. This will also mean less indulgence in trivial talk and more time for the serious exchange of ideas, feelings and opinions. In this way, we shall become increasingly sensitive to ourselves and to other people’s wishes, thoughts and beliefs.
Good listening demands active participation. It involves keeping one’s mind in a state of relaxed alertness, open and flexible to all relevant changes in a given situation. To listen with an active and open mind also entails giving a speaker a chance to present all the facts involved rather than allowing ourselves to jump to premature conclusions. The effectual listener is constantly on the alert to find something interesting in what is being said and attempts to keep the discussion moving and alive either by asking productive questions or by adding something constructive to the situation as a whole. The ineffectual listener, on the other hand, is on the defensive, planning rebuttals or questions designed to embarrass or belittle the speaker, or using his attack to further only his own selfish motives.”
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
The Art of Listening 1
Listening with the Outer Ear 14
Listening with the Inner Ear (Listening to Ourselves). . 32
Listening with a Receptive Ear (Listening to Others) . . 49
The Magic of Listening 65
Listening to the Essence of Things 80
The Disease of Not Listening 97
Listening with a Modest Ear 113
Listening with a Rebellious Ear 126
Listening with a Deaf Ear 138
Listening with the Third Ear 151
The Sound of Silence 166
When We Stop Listening 182
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