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Listening Matters

Kirjoittanut: Esme Luhtala - tiimistä FLIP Solutions.

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Kuuntele ja tule kuulluksi
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.
Aki Hintsa - Voittamisen anatomia
Tony Dunderfelt
Greg McKeown
Oskari Saari
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 11 minuuttia.

Authors of this academic essay:

Iida Luhtala

Gustav Perttilä


Communication needs to be developed, said everyone everywhere in every project. 

In this essay, we dive deeper into the importance of listening and the different perspectives around the topic.


Two types of listening


‘It is an indisputable fact that interaction is enhanced through genuine, present listening,’ writes psychologist Tony Dunderfelt, one of Finland’s most-read non-fiction authors. Even though hearing voices, words, and receiving speech is very automatic, actual listening needs a little extra effort. According to Dunderfelt, listening can be divided into two categories; being quiet and filling the norms that are seen as listening. For example, watching the person who is speaking or mumming acceptably. Usually, no one feels comfortable when speaking to this type of listener.  The second type, the “better” listener, is actually paying attention to the speaker, lets the message come in without a filter, and focuses on the things that the person is actually telling. 


These two types of listening are seen in everyone. There’s no superhuman, who could be 100% accepting and present always when listening. But it is a learned skill and it is possible to develop it.


You can’t stop listening

When we are speaking of the topic of listening it can mean a variety of things. Even if we wouldn’t be in any communication with the outside world and we would be totally isolated just by ourselves, there would still be some sort of listening going on. This is because we are never alone, there’s always our inner voice guiding us through life itself. Listening to your inner voice can have its ups and downs. It’s although our first and most valuable asset we can have. This is the reason why it should be trained, and as well because it CAN be. When facing hard times in life, the way a person is wired to talk and listen to their inner self can make them or break them. This plays a part when getting demotivated, frustrated and even getting depressed.  (Ritu Prasad, The Free Press Journal, 2020)

 Also, another important matter which needs to be discussed is choosing very precisely the people we decide to affiliate ourselves with. These people will play a huge role in the very direction of the path we’ll be heading in life. Our inner circle will be constantly bombarding us with their own worldviews and thus trying to modify ours, most often this happens subconsciously and we don’t even realize that it’s happening.  Being aware of this fact is already the first step into the right direction. Whether people like it or not we are all affected by this in some way or another. There is one skill when it comes to listening to people and that is knowing when and what to filter out, in case a person starts spreading misinformation. (Dan Peña, YouTube, 2020)


 When listening to a person, you should not think about what to reply to, how to defend- or put something down. A good listener takes everything in. Communication is always like a broken phone. Even though it’s impossible, the listener should try their best in taking everything in as the other person is saying it. Even when hearing about something for the first time and from the same recourse, there’s nothing that two persons would feel exactly the same way, know exactly the same things, and have exactly the same experiences regarding it.  


‘If I only listen, others will only drive over me!’ someone might fear. This is a common myth regarding listening. Letting others express themselves doesn’t make anyone weak. Often the one speaking also notices, if the person they’re talking to is actually listening. Not judging or already building a counterargument. In this situation, that person shouldn’t have any reason to continue the possible overbearing speaking style. If the person doesn’t change the way of expressing, it’s obviously good to step up and stop listening for a bit. If you have listened carefully, you might also have good daggers to stab back on to the person now that you’re speaking.  


The words aren’t often the most important component that you can get out of the person when they are speaking. Psychological research suggests that understanding the intentions of others helps to understand other people’s minds. To get on a more intimate level of listening and understanding, it’s important to know the intention of the speaker. The intention might be for example an intention, plan, forethought, desire, or an image of ideal (Tony Dunderfelt, Kuuntele ja tule kuulluksi, 2015) When you know the intention of the speaker, you know much more than the words often tell. When thinking to communicate wise, angry sarcasm and the words themselves might tell a totally different story of the intentions of the person. A good communicator will reply with very different answers in these situations.  


Tips for better listening

According to Dunderfelt practice shows that in a normal everyday situation a person has said their main point in 20-50 seconds. This is important to remember when being frustrated or busy. Good communicator always gives time for others to say what they want to say. It’s not going to take more than a minute for the main point to be brought up and the speaking ball can fly to the frustrated person again. Hurrying someone while their 20-50 seconds will not speed up the process and proper listening will be suffering. 


This happens to some individuals more often (people with temperament at least) and to some less often. But in every person’s mind, there sometimes happens a movement towards an aggressive backlash. Usually, this happens in the form of a small ‘click’. After this click, the listener is unable to listen neutrally and without prejudice. It is always important to try moving back to a proper listening state. When a situation like this happens, it is worth remembering that if you already formulate your own answer in your mind, proper listening will stop. And because it stops, it is difficult to see, for example, how it was actually just a misunderstanding or a poorly told joke. A good listener is aware of when and how this reaction occurs. Once the movement of the mind, the ‘click’ is recognized, it can be consciously allowed to come and go. After this, listening can continue in good quality again.


When training listening the most important things to remember are: No matter how good a listener the person would be, there will always be distractions that will bother or stop the proper, good listening. A good listener is defined by the self-knowledge of their own reactions towards the issue/person/situation in hand and the speed of bouncing back from the “un-proper” listening. 


When doing any kind of interaction with others, it’s common to trigger your psychological projection. Projection means that a person assumes or makes themselves believe something from another which that person doesn’t want to take in. For example, Samantha might be jealous of Sandy because she seems to have such a good relationship with her husband. Samantha isn’t ready to admit her jealousy to herself so she subconsciously builds a mental barricade between herself and Sandy. This barricade can be for example a mindset that ‘I don’t like Sandy or her husband’. There’s a lot of different types of projections. One of the most common ones is to assume that other people see the colors the same way as you see them. Projections are totally normal and it’s impossible to get rid of them. However, it is possible to train your skills to become more aware of them. Wanted communication comes easier when you know what and how you are projecting.


To listen or not to listen?

The way how well a person succeeds in listening and actually internalizing the context of it, determines whether they will make 20% of progress or 80%. It can go as well, in the other way around. If a person fails to listen properly, they can cause irrefutable damage where there is no coming back. This applies when we talk about work, family, friends, or just everyday life. (Mind Tools Content Team, Active listening, 2015) On the other hand, not listening might be a positive thing. It can save you from a lot of trouble. Try to imagine any incident that has happened in your life, it can be positive or negative. Then think about whether that situation would have happened if you had or hadn’t listened to your family member, a colleague, or the guy next door. Determining who to listen to, can, and will, change the course of your life. Dan Peña claims: ‘show me your friends and I’ll show you your future’. What he means by this is that the people you choose to spend your time and affiliate with, will have such a strong impact on you even indirectly,  that your life will most certainly end up looking a lot like theirs. You’ll be influenced by their own outlooks of life, demeanors, the way they carry themselves around, their goals or the lack of them, and plenty more such as these. 


When it comes to the topic of self-development, Dan Peña is considered to be one of the most ‘straight up tell you like it is’ businessmen out there. Even though one might think from his content over the internet that he isn’t a good listener, because of the shouting and interrupting his interviewers, but in fact, there is something below the surface that most won’t recognize. It might sound odd, but he’s such a good listener, that he doesn’t even need to listen to the speech entirely. He can cut the other person mid-way through their sentence because he already got the point. One could call this kind of behavior rude, and others, valuing time. However, it is obvious that he is not good at dialogue. This means that the overall communication with him must be very challenging.


What about when somebody is not listening to you at all? What can you do in this kind of situation, or maybe the right question would be, should you do anything at all? 


‘The effectiveness of the spoken word hinges not so much on how people talk as on how they listen.’ (Nichols, R., & Stevens, L., Listening to People, 1957)

Gender differences 

When talking about as wide of a topic as this: listening, which everyone one of us are capable of doing to some extent. A subject which needs to be addressed  is that there are some clear differences between a mans and a woman’s listening capabilities. It goes without saying that men are not nearly as good at showing emotions as women are. Holistically women are much more talented in all sorts of communications. Whether it would be listening, reading body language or just showing external emotions. Men most often tend to let their egos get in the way of listening, especially when there is an argument going on. A study published in the Independents news article in the United Kingdom, showed that couples who have more productive arguments distinguish themselves from those who end up getting a divorce down the road. The earlier statement of men letting their egos take over during heated arguments doesn’t of course apply only to them, but to women as well. Nobody is perfect and we all have our faults, after all, we are just humans. Interestingly, the study mentioned that couples who ended up getting divorced, frequently cut off discussions about conflict prematurely, with rude and insensitive comments. The couples who ended up staying together approached each other with an open mind and most importantly, listened to each other. (Brodwin, E. A Psychologist Who Studied Couples For Decades Says This Is the Best Way To Argue With Your Partner. 2016.)


Active listening

We always tend to be in a hurry, so this creates an environment where we cannot fully be present, which then creates a window of a gap for miscommunication. Have you ever had an argument with a family member where they’ve accused you of something, perhaps not doing some certain task they had asked you to do? Often our response is either ‘you’ve never told me to do that’ or ‘oh sh*t I forgot’. In both of these examples, you’ve most likely just been negligent, but there are also other explanations for this kind of behavior. For instance, when we are in a rush and someone is talking to us, we might be there in flesh but most often, not mentally. In these situations, we often ask the other person to repeat themselves back to us, because we weren’t actually paying attention, even though we might be agreeing during the conversation. 


One method for solving this is called ‘active listening’. It’s most commonly used when we are interacting face to face with people. As well because this way we can reap the most benefit out of straight interaction through dialogue. People hardly use active listening nowadays and we can’t entirely blame them either. There are so many different distractions out there these days. Something is always ringing, vibrating or humming, while you’re trying to have a good conversation. This is why we need to take this matter into our own hands. There’s a good saying by Benjamin Franklin that goes: ‘If you fail to prepare you are preparing to fail.’ 


So how do we prepare for efficient listening in a way that we don’t fail halfway through? There are multiple tactics for this. Firstly, we need to remember that there are no miraculous ways to suddenly become the best listener in the whole wide world. But there are ways, small adjustments, and premeditated actions that can make a big impact on your listening skills, over time, when accumulated.  

Like earlier said, often we think that a “better” listener just takes everything in as it comes and then tries to cope with it. But here is another way to approach good listening: stop listening. Reducing all the outside noise created by the world multitudes listening. Turning the electronics off, even just turning the notifications off, is often a huge milestone in this elimination of disturbances. What happens next is an odd occurrence, because normally we’d think that no listening would occur. Despite that, the opposite happens. We start actively listening to what’s happening in our surroundings, which is partly because of a process where we let our minds wander around freely. This happens when we get rid of disturbances and other things that keep our attention constantly locked somewhere. Our attention span can be extremely short when it’s interrupted every other minute. (Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, 2014)


Create more meaningful relationships

When talking about listening actively to another person, the trick is that you must interact with the opposite party. Let’s say that there’s a dialogue going between two persons, the other has only been listening and they don’t fully understand the opposite party’s opinion. What can the unknowing person do at this point? They need to speak up and ask because without that, the listening will eventually suffer and so will the interaction between the two parties. Worst case scenario this kind of negligence will put a toll on the relationship of these people. Even that kind of a small miscommunication can cause unwanted tension and break long-lasting bonds when the actions are not corrected on time. 


There is no shame in asking to repeat something over again but only respect, because the other person will see your effort and willingness to understand their point.  That is a trouble which most are not willing to take. Something to make this kind of correction easier is to think about what will the other person think of you, when you clearly aren’t getting the point but still keep nodding your head as if you did. This kind of behavior is not only meaningless but also the sole destroyer of dialogue.  


All of us are social animals, so feeling a sense of acceptance from others is a natural instinct. This is the initial reasoning as to why we even keep nodding our heads when we don’t understand. There is a desperate need of feeling a part of something and not being the one who doesn’t get it during the first round. We as well tend to line our actions in a way where the people around us will start liking us, this goes back to the feeling of acceptance. Often when we want to be accepted is the time we start to listen to others. It could literally be anything, we want to become a part of the new classroom group, we want to go on a second date, we want to be the next business leader, you name it. There are multiple reasons why one would listen to another. 

We usually don’t listen to each other just for the sake of listening, but the times we do, we can sense our minds slipping to other places subconsciously. There is no active listening when we don’t have an agenda behind why we do it. This is one of the primary reasons why some of us don’t do well in school. We have no interest in listening and going deeper into the topic which we are being taught because we don’t understand how we can benefit from it in reality. So with this presumption, it would mean that we as human beings need to understand the reasoning for us to take action with intent. 


Any time we are trying to help someone to solve their problem, it isn’t enough to listen to their issues and then approach from a place of superiority and try to fix the presumed issue. What we need to do is to step down from our pedestal, come to their level, and humanize the interaction for maximum effect. (Oskari Saari, Aki Hintsa – Voittamisen anatomia, 2015)



Dunderfelt, T. 2015. Kuuntele ja tule kuulluksi. 1. edition. Kauppakamari.

Prasad, R., The Free Press Journal. 2020. Gandhi, the Great Communicator. Article. Published 3.10.2020. Read 20.4.2021. https://www.freepressjournal.in/analysis/gandhi-the-great-communicator

Peña, D., Dan Peña – YouTube. USA. 2021. Video. Watched 20.4.2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFmLoYjmV9Y

Mind Tools Content Team, MindTools. 2015. Active Listening, Hear What People Are Really Saying. Article. n.d. Read 20.4.2021. https://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm

Nichols, R., & Stevens, L., Harward Business Review. 1957. Listening to People. Magazine article. Published September 1957. Updated n.d. Read 20.4.2021. https://hbr.org/1957/09/listening-to-people

Brodwin, E. Independent. 2016. A Psychologist Who’s Studied Couples For Decades Says This Is the Best Way To Argue With Your Partner. Article. 14.1.2021. Read 20.4.2021.


Saari, O. 2015. Aki Hintsa – Voittamisen anatomia. Helsinki: WSOY.

McKeown, G. 2014. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. England: Currency.