How To Listen Well

Especially In Personal Setting With Your Loved Ones


6/16/20238 min read

brown donut on white table
brown donut on white table

During my upbringing, my parents' authoritative nature required me to decipher their unspoken messages.

Particularly with my mother, she would often keep her desires hidden and then explode in anger when she reached her breaking point, leaving us to face the consequences.

Consequently, I believed I had honed my ability to read body language, understand underlying messages, and discern true intentions.

However, effective communication was not emphasized in my household.

We were expected to instinctively know what to do next and detect even the most subtle signs of displeasure. My parents seldom engaged in verbal dialogue, instead expressing their dissatisfaction through emotional withdrawal or physical punishment.

I don't hold my parents solely responsible for the person I have become today.

They did their best to raise me and my brother, utilizing the only methods they knew.

Nevertheless, it is crucial for us to acknowledge this reality and recognize that alternative approaches to parenting exist.

As life progressed, I embarked on various jobs, including sales and teaching. I found a partner, started a family, and believed I was doing reasonably well. Certainly, there were communication challenges along the way, but I believed that with effort, anything could be overcome.

Sadly, I now realize that my assumption of improvement was gravely mistaken.

It was while listening to interviews with Simon Sinek on The Diary of a CEO (which I highly recommend listening to all three of the episodes) that I became acutely aware of my inadequacy in the realm of listening.

People Just Want Someone To LISTEN (Stop Offering Solutions)

One of my biggest challenges lies in my ability to truly listen. I catch myself interrupting and constantly formulating my own responses instead of giving my undivided attention.

Moreover, I have a tendency to jump straight into problem-solving mode. It's a trait that society often values in men—we are seen as natural problem solvers.

During my time as a medical social worker, I had the privilege of listening to hundreds of patients each month. I aimed to understand their backgrounds, concerns, and the challenges they faced in their lives.

I believed I was a good listener.

Upon honest reflection, I realize that in my previous work, I talked far more than I listened to my patients.

I would offer solutions to help them cope with their problems. Even while listening, my mind would be preoccupied with gathering information about their income, background, and issues.

I approached my role more like a detective than an empathetic listener. That is probably the reason, most of my patients are trying to leave as quickly as possible. They had enough of my ranting but had to stay because I held the pen to seek approval for their financial assistance.

What I've come to realize is that people don't always need solutions when they seek someone to listen.

This rings particularly true for women, and I'm still learning the importance of holding my tongue in those moments.

All they truly desire is someone who will stand by them, empathize with their struggles, and create a safe space for them to express themselves.

As Simon likes to put it “To be in the mud with them.”

A mantra I'm adopting is that unsolicited advice, regardless of intentions or circumstances, is always unwelcome.

Gap in Skill Between Professional Life vs Personal Life

brown canyon under clear sky during daytime
brown canyon under clear sky during daytime

During the first interview, Simon Sinek highlighted the distinction between listening effectively in professional settings versus our personal lives.

Simon shared an eye-opening experience when his former girlfriend told him that he never truly listened. Initially, he dismissed her comment, assuming that his success in business relied on his listening skills.

However, he decided to enroll in a listening course and discovered a shocking truth: while he excelled at listening to people he would likely never meet again, his ability to listen within his personal relationships was abysmal.

It's important to recognize that being a good listener in a professional context doesn't automatically translate to being a good listener with our loved ones.

Interestingly, we often exhibit more attention and courtesy towards strangers than we do with our loved ones. It's a general tendency to be kinder to other people's children than our own, more willing to listen to unfamiliar older individuals rather than our own parents or grandparents, and more tolerant of those we aren't close to.

There are numerous reasons why this phenomenon occurs.

Seeking approval from strangers can boost our self-image, as we perceive it as a reflection of our character.

Additionally, we may assume that we already know everything about our loved ones, leading to a sense of complacency and a belief that there's nothing new to learn.

Furthermore, we may feel we have more leeway in our relationships with loved ones compared to interactions with strangers. They are way more forgiving.

Let's consider a situation where I find myself meticulously planning every moment of a particular weekend because my daughter's cousin is staying over for those two days. I create a detailed schedule from morning until night, leaving no room for idle moments.

However, it strikes me that I don't approach all weekends with the same level of precision and planning. So, why am I putting in this extra effort this time?

If I'm being honest with myself, there's a component of wanting to ensure that my daughter's cousin has an enjoyable and memorable experience during her stay. I want her to have such a great time that she raves about it afterward.

In essence, this heightened planning and eagerness to please stem from a desire to boost our own ego. It's a way of seeking validation and recognition from others, using the experience as a means to feel good about ourselves.

It's essential to recognize this tendency within ourselves.

While it's natural to seek validation and affirmation, it's important to be mindful of our motivations and ensure that our actions are driven by genuine care and consideration for others, rather than solely for the purpose of boosting our own ego.

Ultimately, all these behaviors boil down to one fundamental issue: taking our loved ones for granted.

By failing to prioritize active listening and genuine engagement in our personal lives, we risk undervaluing and neglecting the people who matter most to us.

Displaying Vulnerability

Connection is a significant challenge that many of us face. Without showcasing vulnerability, establishing deep connections with others can be quite difficult.

By opening up and revealing our vulnerabilities, we let others know that we are not perfect or as strong as we may appear. It shows our human side and offers an opportunity for genuine connection.

In the past, I had never allowed myself to appear vulnerable in front of my closest friends.

I would always respond with "I'm fine" when asked how I was doing, never asking for help or sharing my deepest fears.

Perhaps it was because I didn't want to burden them or appear weak. This need to maintain a strong facade is especially prevalent among men, as we're often expected to display unwavering strength.

Upon further research, I discovered three key reasons why vulnerability is crucial in fostering connections.

It's important to note that I'm not referring to public displays of vulnerability on platforms like YouTube, which can sometimes come across as mere broadcasting. Instead, I'm referring to genuine, face-to-face interactions with real people.

1. Building Trust: When we show vulnerability, we allow others to see our true selves. This authenticity cultivates trust and strengthens connections. People are more likely to trust and relate to someone who is open about their flaws, insecurities, and struggles.

2. Strengthening Relationships: Vulnerability deepens relationships and makes them more meaningful. When we open up, it encourages others to reciprocate by sharing their own vulnerabilities. This exchange of emotions and experiences creates a bond based on understanding and empathy.

3. Emotional Connection: Expressing vulnerability enables others to empathize with us and understand our emotions. This emotional connection bridges gaps between individuals, promoting compassion and support. It also facilitates open communication, making it easier to resolve conflicts and address issues within relationships.

Additionally, when we have the courage to be vulnerable, we inspire others to do the same.

By sharing our stories, struggles, and triumphs, we become a source of encouragement and inspiration for those facing similar experiences. This ripple effect of vulnerability fosters a culture of openness and acceptance.

In essence, people are tired of seeing flawless superheroes on TV and YouTube.

They yearn for genuine human connections, and vulnerability serves as an invitation to connect. By showing vulnerability, we create a space where others feel safe to open up without fear of judgment.

I experienced the power of vulnerability firsthand when I opened up to someone about my insecurities and struggles with pornography.

Although we had known each other for over a decade, our connection deepened immediately. We understood each other's coping mechanisms, insecurities, and societal pressures as men. He also opened up to me about his own use of pornography.

Beneath our surface differences, we discovered a shared experience. We are all flawed fathers, sons, and husbands doing our best to confront our own demons.

During our second meeting he started sharing more about his work and personal life challenges and concerns.

In just two days, I learned so much about him, more than I had in all the years I had known him. Even his wife remarked that she now knew more about him than ever before because he had never shared his troubles with her.

I felt immensely honored that he was willing to be vulnerable with me and allow me to understand his world on a deeper level.

While I may not be his mud buddy yet, I'm always ready to listen if he ever needs to talk. This experience reinforced the transformative power of vulnerability in building meaningful connections with others.


As I reflect on my past behaviors, I've come to realize why my closest friends may not feel comfortable coming to me during their most challenging times.

Aside from societal expectations placed on men, it's likely because I used to believe that I needed to fix their problems and that vulnerability equated to weakness.

Perhaps this belief unconsciously influenced how I presented myself, creating an environment where people feared being judged as weak.

There were instances when my friends attempted to share their problems with me, but my instinct to offer solutions and be judgmental likely deterred them from opening up further.

I understand now that what they needed was someone to be in the mud with them, rather than someone trying to fix everything. Unfortunately, this realization came too late, and they chose not to confide in me again.

Instead, they would only share their experiences with me once they had already dealt with their problems or when those issues no longer affected them. It seems they sought solace in sharing happy news rather than facing potential judgment or problem-solving advice.

To my dear friends and loved ones, I sincerely apologize for being the insensitive listener that I have been.

Please know that although I may not have been the best listener in the past, I am committed to changing my ways. If I have done something wrong, please let me know, and I will make every effort to rectify it.

I genuinely want to be there for you, to lend a listening ear and provide support during both the good times and the difficult ones. I understand the importance of being present, empathetic, and non-judgmental.

Please give me another chance to be the friend you can rely on in times of need.

And to you, my dear readers, I hope that you find courage and strength in opening up to your loved ones. May you also equip yourself with the necessary skills to truly hear and understand them. Becoming a better listener is a journey that takes time and effort, but I assure you that it will be worth it.

Let us strive to be the person our loved ones can confide in and trust. It is a tremendous honor to be there in the mud with them, offering support and a compassionate ear.

Together, we can foster deeper connections and create a space where vulnerability is embraced and valued.

May we all embark on this journey of growth and connection, knowing that our willingness to listen can make a profound difference in the lives of those we hold dear.

With love and heartfelt sincerity.