09/19/2014 06:24 pm ET Updated Nov 19, 2014

The 9 DO NOTs of Active Listening

Being heard
is so close to being loved
that for the average person,
they are almost indistinguishable. - David Augsburger

The above quote triggered my "holy cowgirl" button, thus triggering an "ain't that the truth" epiphany.

"Listen to this," I said to my 'friend,' "Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average..."

He interrupted, "Could you pass the packing tape?"

As it turns out, one of the biggest problems in relationships is not that we don't agree with each other, but rather that we don't feel heard or understood.

That said, listening to one another takes skills that some of us haven't picked up along the way. (Probably, because we weren't listening. Vicious cycle!) Thus, causing misunderstandings, disagreements, frustration, irritation, disputes and discord.

While it is true that we are only human and that we do get distracted, can be exhausted as well as taken over by our emotions, which can move us away from "listening," there are ways to amplify our ability to "hear."


1. Do NOT allow your brain to race ahead of your lips! We speak at about 100 to 150 words per minute, but we think at 250 to 500. Just listen!

2. DO NOT anticipate what will be said. Just listen!

3. DO NOT be distracted by the people or things around you. Keep your eyes focused on the speaker. Just listen!

4. DO NOT interrupt; do not cut the speaker off mid-sentence. Allow her/him to finish her/his thought. Just listen!

5. DO NOT plan your responses as the speaker is speaking. Just listen!

6. DO NOT give advice unless specifically asked for it. Just listen!

7. DO NOT judge. Just listen!

8. DO NOT finish the speaker's sentence. Just listen!

9. DO NOT share every single story from your own life that might relate closely or loosely to what the speaker is saying. Just listen!

Maybe today, instead of half-listening, instead of "sort of" paying attention while multi-tasking, or just plain zoning out, or -- most commonly -- anxiously waiting for the speaker to pause for a millisecond so that we can jump right in with our brilliance; maybe today we can stop and just listen.

I'm betting that the person to whom you are listening would enjoy the extraordinary experience of being heard, seen and witnessed. And you, the person who is actively listening, can exercise your observational powers and, in so doing, perceive more than you normally do.

You might understand your friend, colleague, neighbor, even family member on a whole new level. You may have even "heard" the golden nuggets of what was left unsaid!

Contrary to popular belief, listening is not a passive happening. Listening is an active process in which we connect and make sense of each other.

As for my "friend." In all fairness, he was busy and super-preoccupied. On the bright side, I channeled my mild annoyance into this post. Always a silver lining!