The Art of Listening

by Matthieu Ricard, Christophe André and Alexandre Jollien

CHRISTOPHE: Listening is a process similar to humility, in which one puts others before oneself. There are three basic mechanisms in listening: respect for the other's speech, letting go, and the ability to allow oneself to be touched. Respecting the other's speech is above all not judging what the other is saying while we're listening. It is difficult to keep these judgments from reaching our minds, but when we notice them, we can do our best to return to true listening.

MATTHIEU: Listening is a gift one gives to the other party. To listen well, it is not only necessary to be patient with the other, but it is also necessary to be concerned for the speaker. In the case of the Dalai Lama, the quality that most strikes people who meet him, aside from the compassion he shows for all, is the way he listens. He is totally and immediately present to the person to whom he is speaking, in private or in public, even if they are just a passerby at the airport.

ALEXANDRE: We also have to wipe out condescension. My teachers often hit me with an “I understand” that often didn’t sound too authentic. I had the impression they were looking down from the top of a cliff on a child drowning far below. This regard from on high, far from consoling me, accentuated my solitude.

Listening is above all remaining silent and daring not to be too closely guided by our inner radio, our Conceptual Mind FM Radio, which comments on everything. The more importance I give that, the less available I am to another person. Even if we can’t turn off our radio, it’s already enough if we can become aware of the interference it creates.

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Translation © 2018 by Christophe André, Alexandre Jollien and Matthieu Ricard.  Excerpted from In Search of Wisdom: a Monk, a Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on What Matters Most with permission from Sounds True, Inc. Matthieu Ricard, a former molecular geneticist, is a Buddhist Monk and has served as interpreter for H.H. the Dalai Lama. Christophe André is a psychiatrist specializing in emotions. Alexandre Jollien is a philosopher who lived in a home for the physically disabled for seventeen years from the age of three. All are well published in French with many translations in English. For more information visit

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