Can You Remember Really Feeling Heard?

In a conversation this week, I had one of those ‘Aha’ moments, when suddenly so many things started to fit into place.

At  a recent event on being asked that lovely question, “So, what do you do?” I replied, “I am The Listener”.  In silence, she looked at me.  I continued, looking her full in the eyes, “When was the last time you felt really heard?”  I knew that my question had been heard, but was not sure if it had landed.

Because of the event now starting we were unable to continue talking.  A little later, we broke up to work in smaller groups and I was again with the lady I had spoken to previously.  We were encouraged to let everyone in the group speak on their initial thoughts.  As each person spoke, I gave them my attention, looked into their eyes, and was interested in what they were saying as well as curious as to where their thinking was taking them.  When they stopped speaking and before the next person spoke, I managed to ask a question about what they had been saying and encouraging them to speak a little more.  This was also done with the lady in question.  Later that evening she found me again and said that she now understood what I meant when I said I was The Listener.  She said that she had felt heard by me, and really appreciated my asking her a question and being interested in the answer before we moved on to the next person.

In most cases, their point of view was not connected to the previous speaker at all.  It felt as though the first person speaking had said their piece and then been abandoned.

At another event, where the intention was to encourage more collective dialogue, it was proposed that individuals should speak as and when it moves them, and to make sure that whatever they were saying built on what had been said by the previous person.  What appeared to happen was that one person spoke, another spoke saying, “Building on what x was saying….”. which would have been great had it been true, sadly it was not.  In most cases, their point of view was not connected to the previous speaker at all.  It felt as though the first person speaking had said their piece and then been abandoned.  I appreciate that I am maybe making a mountain out of a molehill, but is this not what happens all the time?  On sharing this observation with the facilitator, he replied, that to have had a really ‘connected’ dialogue as I was suggesting would only be possible in advanced teams of people.  I was a tad shocked to hear that, in that what I was proposing seems to me to be a mixture of respect, equality, time, attention for our fellow man, not the behaviour of an advanced team.

Earlier this week I was discussing true listening.  We can all remember those moments when the person sitting opposite us is truly listening, hanging on to our every word, looking us in the eyes and giving us space and time to speak.  And then the silence, when we stopped speaking, and they did not start, they just kept looking at us.  So we continued speaking and then we stopped, and again they did not speak.  This time though, when we started speaking, thoughts from a lot deeper place came forth, words that we had not planned to say, ideas we had never expressed before, and we started to get into flow.  Our voices changed, we became more animated, we were sharing our thinking.  And all the time we were being heard.  When the conversation finishes, we come back to reality, and we wonder what happened.  Usually, what we then say is, “Thank you for listening, I had no idea where that came from, thank you”.

The sad part is that most of us have become caught up with this fast-paced world, where short, sharp meetings are the norm and if you don’t get in there and scrap then you are a wimp.

The downside is that there is very little listening going on, most people are simply waiting, some more impatiently than others, to say their piece.  This can result in time being wasted having to go back and ask, correct the mistakes that were made and so on.

My ‘Aha’ moment was when I realised that it is not that we don’t know what it feels like to be really heard, we have simply forgotten.  Once we remember, through having an experience of really being heard, everything changes for us.  We notice what is happening in meetings, around the coffee area, at home with our children and with our partners.  Not being heard now starts to feel uncomfortable and even morally wrong.  As a result, we start to make small changes ourselves.  When someone, like one of our children, wants to tell us something, we stop what we are doing, turn and face them and look them in the eyes and wait for them to speak.  You will be amazed at what comes out without our interruption or intervention.


Colin D. Smith
Colin D. Smith
COLIN is ‘The Listener’, a listening skills specialist and the ‘go-to’ person for individuals and teams who want to be heard, think for themselves, and transform their business and personal relationships through active listening. Colin has that innate ability to actively listen to people. He works with management, project and creative teams, facilitating the development and improvement of their listening and thinking skills. Thereby equipping them to more effectively meet their business, relationship and service challenges. He also works privately with individuals, enabling them to feel heard and valued, to think more clearly for themselves, articulate their creative ideas, address their personal concerns, and achieve their personal and professional goals. Colin has had a varied and successful career in consultancy, business development, IT and customer support, across many sectors, including finance, motor, retail and the NHS. In looking back he realises that much of his success was due to his listening and connecting abilities. His inquisitive and curious mind also enables him to explore, with others, unusual, thought-provoking, yet grounded, observations and alternative approaches to business, people, systems, and change. To make things happen, and to take ideas and thinking further, he connects his Clients with his trusted network of entrepreneurs, consultants, thought leaders, free thinkers, coaches and change makers.

DO YOU HAVE THE "WRITE" STUFF? If you’re ready to share your wisdom of experience, we’re ready to share it with our massive global audience – by giving you the opportunity to become a published Contributor on our award-winning Site with (your own byline). And who knows? – it may be your first step in discovering your “hidden Hemmingway”. LEARN MORE HERE


  1. Ah, Colin, the costs of not listening are huge as you mention.

    For me, they’re about the difficulties building relationships that endure, that have value, that meet the needs of two or more people trying to understand each other. And it’s through listening that we learn. Let’s face it: we already know what we know. We don’t always know what we don’t know, and we need others to help us with that.

    But that requires listening deeply, not — as you mention — just waiting for our turn to speak. And maybe that’s a skill — or an understanding — that we acquire as we age; I know I still talk more than I should sometimes but apparently I also listen more as well (or so say my friends).

    This is a topic that needs to be considered daily by each of us, especially those who want meaningful relationships, no matter where they are.

    • Hi there Susan, always lovely to read your thoughts. Agreed, we always know what we know and speak about! Listen first, listen first always, and intend to learn something new, and we will do so.

      Your friends will always tell you if you have been listening…and sometimes they will tell you when you don’t, although rarer, as we avoid confrontation.

      Listening is a skill that can be learned, and like going to the gym and lifting weights, it is always about regular consistent attendance and effort. Better to do 15-minute workouts every day than 90+ minute workout once a week.

      So just practising one skill related to listening every day, such as eye contact, no interrupting, silence, curiosity, not judging, encouraging the speaker to speak more, appreciation, etc., will benefit the speaker and yourself.

      Thank you also, Susan, for your question on an earlier post, caused me much reflection before I answered.