#27 Why listening feel painful at times

Deepa Natarajan



Why listening is sometimes thought to be painful. Reasons why at times listening does not get any deeper and two tips that we can use to become better listeners both at work and at home.

The situation that inspired me to talk about this subject.

[0:32] I was observing a negotiation between two different departments in an organisation. Let’s call one of the person I was observing, Bob.


On the surface, Bob was an extremely inspiring person who was very captivating in his speech. He came into the meeting, gave context, spoke about the big picture, and was really engaging the other person with his talk. He also said a lot of inclusive things like “I really want us to solve this.” However, Bob kept talking and gave no space to the other person. He asked questions in a way that implied it was a no-brainer that everything would happen on time.


When we ask questions from a place of only what we want to hear, then we will only hear what we want to hear. Bob wasn’t connected with the reality, and the reality was that the project was going to be delayed by two years. Until the end of the meeting, Bob didn’t even hear that.


“We miss information, and suddenly it comes back to us at a time when we’re absolutely taken by surprise. The disconnection happens because we only allow information that we want to seek.”


If you have someone who is pretty compliant on the other side, they don’t want to give you bad news. Especially if it is someone who reports to you, you’re not going to hear some things.


The two main reasons why the listening did not get any deeper in Bob’s case.


  1. [4:42] Bob is someone who is a little bit impatient. He just wanted to go faster in his goals and was very narrowly focused. Therefore, he asked questions like “Is this done?” and “Where are we on this?” These questions are open yet closed to his own goals. Sometimes, things are not just a straight path in an organization, and we need to deviate into something else. However, we think that if we listen to something completely different, then we’re wasting our time.
  2. He had the assumption that if he opened his door and stepped out of his room, he would be stepping out of his territory and into the other person’s shoes. He thought that if he experienced what the other person was, he might lose his perspective and goals.


“The painful part of listening is that we have to change the way we have been built; we have to change the way we have been listening. If we truly listen to the other person, then we start to create a new reality that becomes a reality for both of us. We start to create a new perspective which includes different perspectives.”


Listening can be painful because:

  1. Sometimes we can’t go as fast as we wish to.
  2. We have to, at times, change our ideas, beliefs, and the way we are doing things.


There is a false assumption that listening at a deeper level is painful, but actually, it’s not painful: it’s pure joy. We start to co-create with the other person and discover new things.

We won’t lose our assertive position just because we are opening our hearts and listening to the other person.


“If you can trust yourself that you are capable of handling your emotions and, at the same time, making the right choices, then listening empathetically can truly build much more co-creativity and expand our minds.”


Two tips to help you listen more deeply


  1. [8:31] Remembering that: Slow is fast. Bob had the assumption that if he took time to listen, he wouldn’t get everything done in his day. Actually, knowing that the project was going to be delayed would have helped him organize, plan, and support his partner.
  2. Use a lot more silence than you think you do in meetings. We are often uncomfortable with silence, so we try to fill the spaces. Silence allows the other person to break bad news and encourages other people to speak up.

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Samskara Dec 2021 Issue #08

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