In his book, The Art of Listening, influential philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm (March 23, 1900–March 18, 1980) details the techniques, dynamics, and mindsets that make for an optimal listening relationship, in therapy and in life. “Listening,” Fromm argues “is an art like the understanding of poetry” and, like any art, has its own rules and norms. Drawing on his half-century practice as a therapist, Fromm offers six guidelines for mastering the art of unselfish listening and understanding that offer insight to the pastor or minister who wishes to improve their listening skills:
Fromm’s Six Rules for Mastering the Art of Unselfish Listening and Understanding
- The basic rule for practicing this art is the complete concentration of the listener.
- Nothing of importance must be on his/her mind, he/she must be optimally free from anxiety as well as from greed.
- He/she must possess a freely-working imagination which is sufficiently concrete to be expressed in words.
- He/she must be endowed with a capacity for empathy with another person and strong enough to feel the experience of the other as if it were his own.
- The condition for such empathy is a crucial facet of the capacity for love. To understand another means to love him or her — not in the erotic sense but in the sense of reaching out to him or her and of overcoming the fear of losing oneself.
- Understanding and loving are inseparable. If they are separate, it is a cerebral process and the door to essential understanding remains closed.
German born American Political Philosopher, Hannah Arendt wrote, “An experience makes its appearance only when it is being said, and unless it is said it is, so to speak, non-existent.” A corollary to this is, unless there is an attentive listener to the spoken word it has no impact. When they listen attentively, pastors and ministers provide significance to the speaker and open themselves to be impacted by their words.
Posted on November 24, 2020