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  • Writer's pictureBarb Bickford

Listening Skills: The Power of Humble Listening

Updated: May 2

A photo of a person fishing in a boat on a calm lake, with a golden sunset behind and a perfect reflection of it below.

Listening with humility is paradoxically powerful.

With humility (defined as a modest and unassuming perspective on one's own significance), we can bridge gaps, strengthen relationships, and nurture true understanding.

Humility has nothing to do with humiliation. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines humiliate as "to reduce (someone) to a lower position in one's own eyes or others' eyes: to make (someone) ashamed or embarrassed." When we are truly humble, we are neither lower or higher than anyone else and we feel respected and whole.

Humble listening involves setting aside our ego and genuinely focusing on the speaker's words and emotions. It creates an environment where both listeners and speakers can develop trust. We feel valued and respected.

When we practice humility in listening, we become open to diverse perspectives and experiences. We acknowledge that we don't hold all the answers, allowing us to ask questions, seek clarification, and learn from others.

Moreover, humble listening reduces conflicts and misunderstandings. By suspending judgment and fear-driven reactions, we create space for genuine dialogue. Humility encourages vulnerability, enabling individuals to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment.

Finally, listening with humility promotes empathy. It recognizes that other's needs are as important as our own. By suspending our need to have a solution now and by relying on the collective wisdom of everyone involved, we find solutions where everyone gets what they need.

In a world often overshadowed by self-centeredness and noise, listening with humility nurtures compassion and enriches our connections with others.

-- When have you observed humility in someone's listening?

-- How did that humble listening affect the speaker? The listener? -- How might you be a bit more humble in your listening today?


This is part 3 of a series of blog posts on listening:

Part 3: Listening Skills: The Power of Humble Listening (this blog post)

In 2024, I'll be offering online workshops and courses to support learning to listen with curiosity, respect and humility. To be notified about courses and workshops and new blog posts, and to receive tips for improving your meetings and more, sign up for our news emails.

Photo credit: Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

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