Listening with Understanding and Empathy



Devoting mental energies to understanding others’ thoughts and feelings.

Understand others!



“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

Mother Teresa


“The way of being with another person which is termed empathic…means temporarily living in their life, moving abut in it delicately without making judgment… to be with another in this way means that for the time being you lay aside the views and values you hold for yourself in order to enter the other’s world without prejudice…a complex, demanding, strong yet subtle and gentle way of being.”

Carl Rogers


“The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

Dorothy Nevill


“It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.


“If you want to be listened to, you should put in time listening.”

Marge Piercy


“He who guards his mouth keeps his life, but he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”

Proverbs 13:3


“Dialogue is about people-listening to them, empathizing with them, and humbling ourselves for a moment that we might understand a different view.”

Science & Spirit: Connecting Science, Religion and Life, January/February 2001, p. 7


“A unique relationship develops among team members who enter into dialogue regularly. They develop a deep trust that cannot help but carry over to discussions. They develop a richer understanding of the uniqueness of each person’s point of view.”

Peter Senge


“Real dialogue is where two or more people become willing to suspend their certainty in each other’s presence.”

David Bohm


“Think twice before you speak – and you’ll find everyone talking about something else.”

Francis Rodman


“Try to see it my way, only time will tell if I am right or I am wrong.

While you see it your way, there’s a chance that we might fall apart before too long. We can work it out.  W e can work it out.”

John Lennon and Paul McCartney


“The simple act of paying attention can take you a long way.”

Keanu Reeves


“Dialogue’s sole purpose is to create something that has not previously been thought by any individual prior to the dialogue.

It’s purpose is not to share information but to create information…”

Michael McMaster


“If there is any secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as from your own.”

Henry Ford


“Nothing increases the respect and gratitude of one man for another more than when he is heard exactly and with interest.”

R. Umbach


“Listening is the beginning of understanding…

Wisdom is the reward for a lifetime of listening.

Let the wise listen and add to their learning and let the discerning get guidance.”

Proverbs 1:5


“A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something.”

Wilson Mizner


“Did you ever notice how difficult it is to argue with someone who is not obsessed with being right?”

Wayne W. Dyer


“The only service a friend can really render is to keep up your courage by holding up to you a mirror in which you can see a noble image of yourself.”

George Bernard Shaw


“Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding the third.”

Marge Piercy


“Dialogue is a space where we may see the assumptions which lay beneath the surface of our thoughts, assumptions which drive us, assumptions around which we build organizations, create economies, form nations and religions.

These assumptions become habitual, mental habits that drive us, confuse us and prevent our responding intelligently to the challenges we face every day.”

David Bohm


“Silent and listen are spelled with the same letters!”



“Criticizing others is a dangerous thing, not so much because you may make mistakes about them,

but because you may be revealing the truth about yourself.”

Harold Medina


“Listening is as important as talking.  If you’re a good listener, people often compliment you for being a good conversationalist.”

Jesse Ventura


“Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly.”



“If you’re forming a rebuttal, you’re not really listening.”

Jane Klivans, Bank One Investment Group


“If you spend more time asking appropriate questions rather than giving answers or opinions, your listening skills will increase.”

Brian Koslow


“Two monologues do not make a dialogue.”

Jeff Daly


“When one’s own problems are unsolvable and all best efforts are frustrated, it is lifesaving to listen to other people’s problems.”

Suzanne Massie


“There are very few people who don’t become more interesting when they stop talking.”

Mary Lowry


“One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears–by listening to them.”

Dean Rusk, U.S. Secretary of State


“Become the world’s most thoughtful friend.”

H. Jackson Brown Jr., author


“If you can learn a simple trick, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks.

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird


“Think in terms of what’s good for the other person and success will seek you out.”

Mary Kay Ash, entrepreneur


“Hearing is a passive activity—you’re allowing sound waves to penetrate your ear.

In listening, you actively determine meaning to what is heard–you listen with your eyes and ears.  You’re in control when a customer is talking about his problem, and out of control when you’re talking about yourself.”

Carolyn Riddle, sales personnel


“To listen fully means to pay close attention to what is being said beneath the words. You listen not only to the “music,” but to the essence of the person speaking. You listen not only for what someone knows, but for what he or she is.  Ears operate at the speed of sound, which is far slower than the speed of light the eyes take in. Generative listening is the art of developing deeper silences in yourself, so you can slow our mind’s hearing to your ears’ natural speed, and hear beneath the words to their meaning.”

Peter Senge


“The key to wisdom is knowing all the right questions.”

John A. Simone, Jr.


“Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent.”



“Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of witnesses.”

Margaret Millar


“Nature has given men one tongue and two ears, that we may hear twice as much as we speak.”



“Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference.”

David Augsburger


“A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with.”

Kenneth A. Wells


“There is no greater loan than a sympathetic ear.”

Frank Tyger


“Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.”



“The wise man has long ears and a short tongue.”

German Proverb


“Listen and hear not only what you thought you wanted to hear.

Listen and hear what you have to learn.”

Ralph S. Marston, Jr.


“Listen or your tongue will keep you deaf.”

Native American Proverb


“You cannot know who is going to bring you your future. You cannot qualify them in advance by looking at degrees, or experience, or gender or race. You can only listen!”

Joel Barker, Future Edge


“No one really listens to anyone else, and if you try it for a while you’ll see why.”

Mignon McLaughlin


“The first duty of love is to listen.”

Paul Tillich, theologian


“Listen that you may live.”

Isaiah 55:3


“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

Winston Churchill


“Listening is a hug you give with your mind.”

Barbara Nixon


“The silence of prayer is the silence of listening.”

Elizabeth O’Connor, Elderly Housing Program


“The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside. Only he who listens can speak.”

Dag Hammarskold


“People don’t listen to understand. They listen to reply. The collective monologue is everyone talking and no one listening.”

Stephen Covey


“Try to listen carefully that you might not have to speak.”

Quaker saying


“When you are deeply contemplative, you listen more carefully and understand things which cannot be articulated.”

David A. Cooper


“You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts.”

Kahlil Gibran


“The reason why so few people are agreeable in conversation is that each is thinking more about what he intends to say than about what others are saying, and we never listen when we are eager to speak.”

La Rochefoucauld


“Every moment I spend training myself to inner listening is like digging a well, deeper and deeper, toward the source of replenishment that never goes dry.”

Joanne Blum, PhD


“In music we gain a sense of rhythm through the absence of sound. A similar process occurs in communication between two people.”

Sheldon Roth


“He who speaks does not know, he who knows does not speak.”



“Listening is the ultimate antidote for healing hurting hearts.”

Lyman K. Steil


“I stop and taste my words before I let them pass my teeth.”



“We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Mother Theresa


“Listen as though your life depended on it. It does.”

The Art of Pilgrimage


“Listening–the language of love for everyone.”



“There’s a guidance for each of us. and by lowly listening we shall hear the right words.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson


“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”

Ernest Hemingway


“It is understanding that gives us an ability to have peace. When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint, and he understands ours, then we can sit down and work out the differences.”

Harry S. Truman


“You don’t learn when you’re talking.”

Watts Wacker, CEO, FirstMatter


“When two people are at one in their inmost hearts,

They shatter the strength of  iron or bronze.

And when two people understand each other in their inmost hearts,

Their words are sweet and strong, like the fragrance of orchids.”

I Ching


“One friend, one person who is truly understanding, who takes the trouble to listen to us as we consider our problem, can change our whole outlook on the world.”

Dr. Elton Mayo


“I started young but at every turn, listening provided a foundation for my leadership. I can say categorically that all the really excellent leaders I have known were, in my view, excellent listeners.”

Joe Shuster, Founder & CEO, Teltech


“I learned early on that there is a great magic in letting people ‘hear their own voice.’ When it’s accomplished, it completes the communication magic and lubricates the bonding relationship.”

Bob Danzig, former CEO of Hearst Publishing Company.



“When you talk, you repeat what you already know; when you listen, you often learn something.”

Jared Sparks


“You can’t fake listening. It shows.”

Raquel Welch, actress


“True kindness presupposes the faculty of imagining as one’s own the suffering and joys of others.”

André Gide


“A conductor’s authority rests on two things: the orchestra’s confidence in the conductor’s insightful knowledge of the whole score, and the orchestra’s faith in the conductor’s good heart, which seeks to inspire everyone to make music that is excellent, generous and sincere. Old-school conductors liked to hold the lead in their hands at all times. I do not. Sometimes I lead. Other times, I’ll say ‘Violas, I’m giving you the lead. Listen to one another, and find your way with this phrase.’ I’m not trying to drill people, military style, to play music exactly together. I’m trying to encourage them to play as one, which is a different thing. I’m guiding the performance, but I’m aware that they’re executing it. It’s their sinews, their heartstrings. I’m there to help them do it in a way that is convincing and natural for them but also a part of the larger design. My approach is to be in tune with the people with whom I’m working. If I’m conducting an ensemble for the first time, I will relate what it is I want them to do to the great things they’ve already done. If I’m conducting my own orchestra, I can see in the musicians bodies and faces how they’re feeling that day, and it becomes very clear who may need encouragement and who may need cautioning. The objectivity and perspective I have as the only person who is just listening is a powerful thing. I try to use this perspective to help the ensemble reach its goals.”

Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director, San Francisco Symphony


“One must not be afraid of a little silence. Some find silence awkward or oppressive, but a relaxed approach to dialogue will include the welcoming of some silence. It is often a devastating question to ask oneself – but it is sometimes important to ask it – ‘In saying what I have in mind will I really improve on the silence?’ “

Robert Greenleaf, Servant Leadership


“The biggest distractions are those that reside in the available space in your mind, which allow you to do other things while you are listening.”

W. Myron Hendry, Sr. Vice President, Safeco Insurance


“Listening is the act of acknowledging the unique value of the thoughts and opinions of others.”

Bill Kroll


“True listening is more of a focused action rather than a random movement.”

Dr. Jeff Carter


“Listening and leadership are inseparable.”

Tom Moran


“Listening is where love begins: listening to OURSELVES and then to our NEIGHBORS.”

Fred Rogers


“It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much.”

Yogi Berra


“The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.”

Fran Lebowitz, writer


“Of course everything has been said that needs to be said–

but since no one was listening it has to be said again.”



“Being listened to is so close to being loved, that most people can’t tell the difference.”

David Augsburger


“Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech.”

Martin Tupper


“Listen before you leap and weep.”

Lyman K. Steil


“How well we communicate is determined not by how well we say things but by how well we are understood.”

Andy Grove, CEO, Intel Corporation


“Outstanding listening leaders understand that true wisdom begins with the questions we ask. Like Albert Einstein, intelligent people ask great questions. Moreover, the best questions are the questions we create and ponder for ourselves; especially the questions that prepare us for difficult and challenging times.”

George Knuteson, President of Whisper GLIDE Swing Company


“Successful communication transforms your thoughts, will, and desire into action. It moves people. It transforms the thoughts, will and desires of others. What better word for this process than magic?”

Jack Griffin, author from How to Say it at Work


“Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice; Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.”

Shakespeare, Hamlet


“When a friend speaks to me, whatever he says is interesting.”

Jean Renoir


“An effective leader is very good at listening. And it’s difficult to listen when you are talking.”

John Wooden


“I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind.”

Kahlil Gibran


“The most basic of all human needs is to understand and to be understood.”

Dr. Ralph G. Nichols


“We need to enhance listening in every corner and quarter of society.”

Dr. Ralph G. Nichols


“The most important thing in communication is to hear what is not being said.”

Dr. Peter Drucker


“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”

Jimi Hendrix


“To improve communications, work not on the utter, but the recipient.”

Dr. Peter Drucker


“Without wearing any mask we are conscious of; we have a special face for each friend. The key is to match the face of others at their level.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes


“The heart of a fool is in his mouth, but the mouth of a wise man is in his heart.”

Benjamin Franklin


“Good company and good discourse are the very sinews of virtue.”

Izaak Walton


“In a democracy, a man who does not listen cannot lead.”

David S. Broder


“We should wish not to listen long as to listen well.”

Benjamin Franklin


“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people, than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Dale Carnegie


“Hear one side and you will be in the dark. Hear both and all will be clear.”

Thomas C. Haliburton, Canadian author


“When men are brought face to face with their opponents, forced to listen and learn and mend their ideas, they begin to live like civilized men.”

Walter Lippmann


“I’m still learning about music.  The best way to learn is to listen to the audience. When you listen to the audience, they will tell you what they like. I wish these big corporations, instead of telling the audience what they should have, would listen.”

Tony Bennett, double Grammy winner


“I think the one lesson I have learned is that there is no substitute for paying attention.”

Diane Sawyer


“We are going through a time when the whole world lacks for leadership and that leadership is suffering because most people don’t listen enough. When you talk, you only say what you already know. You only learn when you listen.”

John Whitehead, Deputy Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, and Chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Project


“Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.”

Margaret J. Wheatley


“Conversation would be vastly improved by the constant use of four simple words: I do not know.”

André Maurois, author


“Listening well is an exercise of attention and by necessity hard work. It is because most people do not realize this or they are not willing to do the work that they do not listen well.”

F. Scott Peck, author


“I emphasize listening. We strive to hear what other people want us to hear, even though they don’t always come out and say it directly.”

Robert W. Galvin, Chairman, Motorola Co.


“If I’m talking to someone in a crowded room, I try to make this person feel as though we’re the only ones present. I shut out everything else. I look directly at the person. Even if a gorilla were to walk into the room, I probably wouldn’t notice it.”

Mary Kay Ash


“Listen with your heart and love will find it’s way to you.”

Rick Bommelje


“The crown of life is neither happiness nor annihilation; it is understanding.”

Winifred Holtby


“It is not the content of the exchange that is central but the experience of being taken in and heard, which not only confirms the legitimacy of one’s looking at the world but then allows one to begin letting go of some defensiveness because the experience of affirmation increases one’s capacity to affirm others.”

Suresh Srivasta and Frank Barrett, Professors, Case Western Reserve University


“Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.”

Judith Martin (“Miss Manners”)


“The thing I hate about an argument is that it always interrupts a discussion.”

G.K. Chesterton


“It takes a great man to make a great listener.”

Arthur Helps


“Never miss a good chance to shut up.”

Scott Beache’s grandfather


“A closed mouth gathers no feet.”



“The fool speaks, the wise man listens.”

African proverb


“I believe one of the requirements of good leadership is the ability to listen – really listen – to those in your organization. An effective leader is very good at listening, and it’s difficult to listen when you are talking.”

John Wooden, basketball coach, UCLA


“In my opinion, being an effective leader requires being an effective listener. The most productive leaders are usually those who are consistently willing to listen and learn.”

John Wooden, Basketball Coach, UCLA


“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.”

Brian Tracy, Canadian self-help author


“When I am getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say and two-thirds about him and what he is going to say.”

Abraham Lincoln


“There’s a lot to be said about the power of being quiet versus the power of being heard.”

Clarence Otis, Jr., CEO of Darden Restaurants


“The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.”

Richard Moss


“The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man’s observation, not overturning it.”

Edward Bulwer-Lytton, British politician and writer


“Run your fingers through my soul,

For once, just once, feel exactly what I feel,

Believe what I believe,

Perceive what I perceive,

Look, experience, examine, and for once;

Just this once, understand.”

Oscar Wilde


“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.”

Doug Larson, American newspaper columnist


“Empathic listening is a deep level of listening. When we are engaged in real dialogue and paying careful attention, we can become aware of a profound shift in the place from which our listening originates. We move from seeing the object world of things, figures and facts to listening to the story of a living and evolving self. When we say “I know how your feel,” it requires an open heart to really feel how another feels. An open heart gives us the capacity to connect directly with another person from within. When that happens, we enter new territory in the relationship; we forget about our own agenda and begin to see how the world appears through someone else’s eyes.”

Otto Scharmer


“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”

Robert Frost


“Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.”

Joyce Brothers, American psychologist and columnist


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