Erich Fromm: The Art of Listening
- The basic rule for practicing this art is the complete concentration of the listener.
- Nothing of importance must be on his mind, he must be optimally free from anxiety as well as from greed.
- He must possess a freely-working imagination which is sufficiently concrete to be expressed in words.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!
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