We don’t know how to listen. Developing listening and speaking intelligence

Part 1.

We don’t know how to listen. The old saying, ‘we only use 10% of our brain’ could well apply to our listening ability. Except I would say we probably only hear about 1% of what is available to us. We have way too much going on in the madness of our inner conversation for a start, and then there is how we listen, and where we listen from, and what we listen for. Complex. Very, very…a skill to be developed, absolutely.

You only have to look back at your last week of conversations and interaction with self and others to realise that we have low skill in speaking to others. The amount of time we spend cleaning up after miscommunication, failed communication, no communication…or the number of times we find ourselves in the same place, doing the same old behaviours, the ones we really dislike…because of the circling conversation in our head…like…”I don’t know how to do this…or…I am not good enough…or…?? You get my drift..

Phew…just image if we got these two developmental intelligences right…we would all have more time, and less stress, to start with. The legal profession, and most of the health profession would become largely redundant. 40% of the inefficiencies at work would be gone. And that is just the beginning.

This article, in 2 parts, is an introduction to developing listening and speaking intelligence. For just as we have cognitive, emotional, physical and spiritual intelligence, we also have listening intelligence and speaking intelligence. These are learned skills. Like any skill, you have to want to learn to improve them. If you live in a cave and never deal with other people, then this article is not for you. Otherwise, consider improving your life by taking time to invest in developing these skills with consciousness.

The Situation
You are in a meeting and you say something to your boss in truth and innocence and they start interrogating you from left field. You leave the meeting, and later start to feel or experience deep discomfort in your body, or in your thinking. Something is really off. After further reflection you realise that something happened in that interchange that raises red flags for you about the level of trust you have with your boss.


You are working with someone who for some reason appears to hold the power dynamic in the relationship. They may be very clever with words, they may be adept at ‘casting spells’ over people putting them into a trance like state, they may be a master manipulator, or employ passive aggressive bullying techniques. You have some level of awareness of this, but you know that you often leave any conversation with them deflated, dis-empowered and generally in an unresourceful state.

We all have had these experiences. Usually many of them over time. Often we have these experiences with very specific people in our life. They have an archetypal makeup that plugs us in, and we allow ourselves, usually unconsciously, to become diminished around them. We may not become aware of this diminishment until months, or even years, down the track. One day we may hopefully wake up and realise that somewhere in the equation we gave up pieces of ourselves and responded repeatedly to them from a place that was small. Anyone who has woken up after divorce will often realise that during their marriage they gave up whole chunks of themselves to do things like..keep the peace, avoid conflict, or because they didn’t trust their own voice and intuition.

The destination
The goal of mastery that we are seeking in this article is to be able to determine in the very moment the point that a violation happens, and to speak calmly and clearly to the violation. To name it without being reactionary. By violation I specifically mean when a person in the dialogue is manipulating, bullying, distrusting, intending harm, disrespect, or dis-empowerment, as in the two examples illustrated.

Realise that you are a participant in the violation by not speaking and allowing it to occur, be that consciously or unconsciously.

Violation = to treat irreverently or disrespectfully. Violation is derived from the same root as virility and virtue.  (uiro which means man, the vital forces of man.) Violation- to treat with force, or to rob one of their vital force.

The pathway
Few people have the ability to speak to a violation in the moment as it occurs and to do so while maintaining their own dignity, without reaction. To be able to do this indicates a level of mastery. Therefore, we need to start our journey to mastery by recognising that it is indeed a journey, and may take years of development to achieve.

*The beginning of the journey starts with simple awareness.

Recognise some form of violation is occurring, whether that be minutes, days, months or years after the violation. This is the first step.

People will generally have some of the following type of experiences after a violation.

They will feel body sensations that are unpleasant. Anywhere from overt pain, like neck pain, stomach pain, stomach knots, headache, dry mouth, sweaty palms, increased heart rate; to subtle body signals, like vague nausea, lethargy, depression, a bad taste in the mouth or just general twitchiness.

They might have difficulty sleeping, because something very low grade is worrying them and they can’t quite put their finger on what it is.

They may be in a circular thinking mode, where the same thoughts are going round and round.

They may be irritable. Other people notice before they do. “Why are you so snappy today?”

They may get sick, with cold or flu like symptoms.

It may be very very vague…just a feeling that something is not right.

Strongly intuitive people will register this quite quickly, although they may not be able to determine source.

If you have been absorbing a repeated violation for years, you may have depression, extremely low self esteem, consistent illness, lethargy, chronic pain.

*Once you have the awareness that something is not right, we then need to determine the source. This takes practice, especially if we have been ignoring the signals for years. In people who have disassociated their own feelings, they will have a deep sense of confusion or denial around the source. These people are often candidates for professional help. In many instances they have separated themselves from the source, objectifying it to allow it to not affect them so intensely. Objectification is a self defense mechanism.

Source is best determined if you go back to the first moment you became aware of the discomfort, or to the place where your thinking continues to circle. You may need an objective third party to help you with this.

*Once you have determined source, you need then to uncover the source code. What was the intention of the person at the very moment of the violation? Again, this may need an objective and skilled third party.

*The intention needs to be named. Clearly and specifically. When truth is named all of the charge (heat) diminishes. The noise in our heads stops, we have a deep sense of ‘yesness”. Because we are so often attached to these issues naming may be very hard, unless we bring clinical objectivity to the naming. Personally I ask my coach to help me, as these issues can be complex. We are dealing with power. (That’s power over another, not personal empowerment.)

From here, I would suggest you employ the ‘7 step process for radical truth with compassion’, as outlined in my ebook, Speak the Truth.

This process will help you uncover your contribution to this situation, and to enable you to step into a conversation with the perpetrator while maintaining your centre. To enact this conversation requires great skill, also something that is developed over time.

In the advanced levels of the skill of listening and speaking intelligence, you would become aware of the violation in the moment, you would identify the intention behind it, and you would name it, right there and then, all the while maintaining your centre.

To accelerate the development of this intelligence is a practice, requiring consistency over time.

In Part 2 of this article we will look at practices to get your listening intelligence advanced, to identify source code, to name it without creating blame, and then to speak to the situation while maintaining your centre.


2:23AM Integrity is the Essence


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7 Comments on “We don’t know how to listen. Developing listening and speaking intelligence”

  1. Really enjoyed this article & I am looking forward to Part 2. I personally have been struggling with this type of situation for many, many years – but for me it mainly occurs in the work situation where there is an unequal power distribution (boss vs employee). For years I have realised & become untuned to the finer subtleties of how others manipulate and employ passive aggressive bullying techniques on others (myself included). I have been frustrated that whilst being able to recognise this (often when others don’t) I have not yet found an effective way to enlighten those people that it is not acceptable to do what they are doing & that each person deserves to be respected whilst still maintaining my own dignity & to ensure that any possbile future reprisal from them will not occur.

    1. Hello Helen,

      thank you for your response. This is such a common situation, so we all need to learn how to keep our centre when this happens…and then from learning continue to work at refining..

      I wish you blessing in your journey,

      In delight,


  2. Hi Christine

    I read your article on Listening (or not listening) with great interest.

    I find listening a long term development exercise and something I continually work on as I grow. I know it is not one of my most favourable skills, however I believe I am learning more and more as time goes on. Being in sales it has always been difficult to listen instead of trying to be overpowering, manipulative and having the need to be heard. Reversing that trait is a continual challenge.

    I have found over the years the easiest way for me to learn is by admitting I have a problem. In this case, I did admit many years ago that I have a listening problem. That in itself has enabled me to improve. Learning more through my own development and articles like yours keeps up the awareness that the problem still exists and also keeps the ball rolling to keep to make changes and learn more and better ways to improve listening skills.

    What stops me admitting at times is my own ego and poor intent. When they are both placed incorrectly, it is very difficult to make the changes required to move forward and at the same time impossible to listen. When they are both placed correctly, change and listening is easy.

    I always read your articles with interest and appreciate someone who has others interests at heart as you do.

    I look forward to Part 2.

    Kind Regards

    Graham Lewin

    1. Thank you Graham for your comment and for your willingness to share so openly. Intention is such a powerful thing…to listen with clear intent. And to admit that you have not been listening and that you had a problem with listening..there is only progress that can be made from here. Bravo.



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