Vox Populi

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Erich Fromm: The Art of Listening

  1. The basic rule for practicing this art is the complete concentration of the listener.
  2. Nothing of importance must be on his mind, he must be optimally free from anxiety as well as from greed.
  3. He must possess a freely-working imagination which is sufficiently concrete to be expressed in words.
  4. He 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.
  5. The condition for such empathy is a crucial facet of the capacity for love. To understand another means to love him — not in the erotic sense but in the sense of reaching out to him and of overcoming the fear of losing oneself.
  6. Understanding and loving are inseparable. If they are separate, it is a cerebral process and the door to essential understanding remains closed.


From The Art of Listening by Erich Fromm (Continuum, 1994). Quoted in Brainpickings, edited by Maria Popova.

Erich Fromm (1900-1980) is known as a social commentator, but he was first and foremost a practicing psychoanalyst. For him the practice of therapy consisted of the art of listening, a topic which he explored in a 1974 seminar in Switzerland, the 400-page transcript of which was eventually adapted into the posthumously published The Art of Listening.


One comment on “Erich Fromm: The Art of Listening

  1. Daniel Burston
    April 30, 2017

    Bravo! I am so glad to see Fromm on Vox Populi again. His reflections on empathy and listening still ring true.

    Sadly, the optimal conditions for listening to another person – freedom from anxiety, greed (or unmet needs) and a “freely working” imagination – are often difficult to achieve in these dark times. But when it happens – what a gift!

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on April 30, 2017 by in Health and Nutrition, Opinion Leaders, Social Justice and tagged , .

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