Authentic Listening


Do You Hear What I Hear?

At this point you might be thinking authentic listening, what’s that?  No, your brain hasn’t failed you.  Nor is it something you are likely to find in a Dictionary or on Wikipedia.  It’s a term I use.   Authentic listening is not the same as “active” listening but does incorporate active listening.   According to Wikipedia,

Active listening is a communication technique.  Active listening requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what they hear.  The ability to listen actively can improve personal relationships through reducing conflicts, strengthening cooperation, and fostering understanding.

When interacting, people often are not listening attentively.  They may be distracted, thinking about other things, or thinking about what they are going to say next (the latter case is particularly true in conflict situations or disagreements).  Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others, focusing attention on the speaker.  Suspending one’s own frame of reference and suspending judgment are important to fully attend to the speaker.”

To me, to truly, genuinely, and authentically listen, you need to not only listen, but “hear” and process on multiple levels.  You need to look at the words used, the intent, the context, the emotional state of the speaker, the past history between individuals, etc.  You need to recognize, think through, and act upon (if appropriate) the underlying motivations, drivers, and expectations. 

Hidden desires and motivations often play a big part of what is said and how it is stated.  Do you really want to “hear” what someone else is saying – understand where the other person is coming from and why – or do you just want to make your point.

In addition to listening actively, being authentic in how you listen includes elements of reflective listening.   Again, from Wikipedia, reflective listening attempts to “…reconstruct what the client is thinking and feeling and to relay this understanding back…” 

Authentic listening includes listening actively, using reflection techniques, listening with an intent to “hear” the underlying messages, seeking to understand where another individual is coming from, processing across multiple dimensions, and being conscious of the underlying filters and motivations that you personally bring with you during a conversation. 

I believe true, authentic listening is a lost art.  It comes from a place of true caring – having an interest in others, their experiences, and their personal goals.

  • How well do you really listen? 
  • Do you use active listening?
  • Do you use reflective listening techniques?
  • Do you really listen and “hear” what is said or are you often working to prepare your response prior to the other person finishing?
  • What actions can you take to help ensure you listen more authentically? 
  • How would you feel if someone was really authentic when they listened to you?
  • Do you hear what I hear when we talk?

May your conversations not only be active and reflective but authentic too.   I hope you think that mine are.  I’m not perfect (no one is) but I do always seek to be authentic.  To me, life’s too short and complex enough already to be anything else.  Cheers.


  1. Dean Cowan says:

    I found your article very thought provoking, to the point that while I was reading I start to come up with ideas, images, relfections of my own. Which meant I had to go back and re-read the points you were making. Do you think there can be something called ” Authentic Reading”? I have not as yet come accross it.

  2. Faith Fuqua-Purvis says:

    Dean –

    Glad to hear that I provoked your thinking. That’s my ultimate goal when I write. I do know what you mean and I think of it as reading with the intent to truly understand. Love the term “Authentic Reading”. How often do we actually do that?

    Would love for you to give it some additional thought and consider writing a follow-up article about both your experience and your thoughts on this issue. How might we improve both business and interpersonal situations if we stop to really read and reflect. Can’t do it all the time, but there are times/documents for which we should do a better job of it.

    P.S. If you can’t tell already, I’m a big proponent of Learn by Doing…

  3. emt training says:

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  4. Randell Duey says:

    Wow! You did a awesome job. You should write more frequently!

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