Listening with Compassion

In my last two blog posts, I said that the phenomenon of listening consists of only two components:

1. Who do you have your attention on?

2. What’s your internal conversation?

I further said that if you want to be a really effective listener, just give the other person your undivided attention. Period. Forget all this nonsense about active listening, whatever that means, eye contact, body language, and the rest. Just give the other person, whoever it is, your undivided attention. Have your internal conversation be something like: how are we both going to win here and work together.

There are certain times when it is highly desirable to generate a particular internal conversation and I’m using these posts to discuss them. If you want to read about this in detail, get yourself a copy of my book at

Can any of you say that you never ever get upset? Surely not. Living your life trying to avoid being upset can be very upsetting! So being upset is predictable.

Now the question is: what do you say when people around YOU get upset? Some of the answers I’ve heard over the years are: calm down, it’s not such a big deal, what are you getting so upset about?, chill out, take a pill, it will be OK and relax. Are you clear you say some of those things?

Well, don’t. They are not appropriate. Every human being has an upset mechanism that was hard wired into him or her when they were very young. So, when people get upset, they always think they know why, but they really don’t. Why people get upset, most of the time is because something happened that triggered their upset mechanism. To say any of the things listed above just makes matters worse. It’s like pouring gasoline on a fire.

Instead, get your attention on the upset person and just listen with compassion. If you have to say anything, just say, “I’m so sorry you’re upset” and leave it at that. Let them be upset. If you’re willing to stand in the face of their upset for just a few minutes and listen with compassion, the upset will take care of itself and pretty quickly go away.

Try it. You’ll be amazed at how well this works.

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