You’re not Listening: What you’re missing and why it matters by Kate Murphy


This “Remarkable Resource” is taken from the March 2020 #happyacademic newsletter.

What, truly, is listening? Why is listening well so crucial for educators, leaders and professionals? But what does it really take to be a great listener? Why is listening a really tough skill and courageous act? What can I prioritize now to improve my own listening?

This new book by New York Times journalist Kate Murphy provides a dedicated primer to the very human but very much neglected skill of listening. Covering a plethora of listening terrain from neuroscience, child development, cognition and big data, Murphy makes a compelling place for the primacy of listening in a very noisy world. Whether you’re an educator, manager, leader, practitioner, therapist, parent, friend, or partner—your listening skills will help not only others but also yourself.

The book is packed with research, stories, and reflections to understand facets of your own listening practice more, feel more motivated to becoming a better listener, and understand better how to do this. Helping us all to foster next-level listening.

Three Key messages

  • Most people think they are but are not good listeners. When you’re trying to listen but catch yourself thinking-ahead, judging in the moment, or being distracted—listen and focus more on the listener, their words, their actions, the silences, what is implied, what seems unsayable. Focus all your attention on them.
  • Listening allows us to better enter other people’s worlds. It is the key to improved communication, empathy, persuasion, and collaboration. [Click to tweet] Instead of making oblique ‘listening noises’ or simply nodding, demonstrate your commitment to listening by asking good questions, go deeper, and support the listener share.
  • Prioritizing becoming a better listener will reward you almost right way in many ways.

Key Applications

  • Consciously try to declutter the distractions from your listening spaces. When you are in conversations trying to listen, get out the habits of having your cell phone out, looking at your watch, or answering the telephone. Your sole focus should be on the person you are listening to. Make listening easier for yourself by minimizing avoidable distractions.
  • Reflect on your past experiences as a listener—what aspects of listening have you done well at? What aspects should you improve most? Prioritize aspects of listening that you want to develop around and consciously work on these in some of your future conversations.
  • Ask for feedback from a trusted colleague or friend following a conversation. Encourage them to share feedback with you on your own listening behaviours? What do you do well? What can be improved? Did they feel fully seen in the conversation? If so, why so? If not, why not? Consider and identify which facets of listening you will prioritize developing.

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