All I ever wanted you to do was just listen

A listening ear


As a conflict resolution and negotiation specialist I know how important listening is related to conflict resolution, alternative dispute resolution, and collaboration. In my book The Collaboration Effect I comment that the most important chapter is on listening. Seeing an emotionally charged commentary on listening from a friend of mine I wanted to share this with you and expand on this topic to help you. Dr. Jermaine Davis shares that coming from a gang-infested area he obtained his PhD, but his younger brother made some bad choices to survive. All his younger brother ever wanted was to have someone listen to him. Think of how powerful that statement is. I know everyone wants to be respected and listened to. Think about this with our very divided nation. What if regardless of the conflict we made a constructive attempt to listen to the other party?




Dr. Jermaine Davis is from the west side of Chicago and grew up in a tough neighborhood. Here Is a powerful, emotionally charged short video by Dr. Jermaine Davis. Please watch it. What is his point? Everyone wants to be listened to. As a conflict resolution and negotiation specialist I know that negative conflict is often spurred on by fear and disrespect. His video brings this home. So, what can we do to truly listen?


Listening from the board room to the street


Mediating and negotiating on billion-dollar issues between fortune 100 companies has unique characteristics. Volunteering in housing court, conciliation court, neighborhood disputes, in public housing, and between gangs has unique characteristics too. The similarities are uncanny. In the board room we are talking about money but our brains are from 90% to 98% emotional and only 2% to 10% rational.  That means that  whether in the board room or on the street connecting relationships, listening actively, and educating judiciously are keys to building bridges and negotiating closure.

Volunteering in various venues serving food to homeless and working with organizations addressing poverty has given me additional insights  I have found for example after serving food, it is important for me to sit down and listen to their stories. Everyone has a story. Everyone wants to be listened to. It is amazing what you can learn when you take the time to simply listen and ask questions.

Picking up on Dr. Jermaine’s commentary and that all his brother really wanted was to have someone listen, I found his commentary to be powerful. How can you more effectively explore your and their needs and feelings.


Needs and feelings


Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a well-known concept. This concept incorporates five needs. These are physiological, safety and security, love and belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization. When working with someone else you and they may have a host of unique needs and feelings. Exploring your own and theirs needs and feelings can go a long way towards promoting understanding. As an aid to help you here is a  link to a needs and feelings inventory of descriptive words offered by the Center for Nonviolent Communication.  As you work together to address concerns, having this as a reference may assist you. As you assess your needs and feelings, and you explore the needs and feelings of the other party, this inventory can be extremely helpful. Similarly, as you listen actively to the other party this inventory may help you more accurately describe where the other party is coming from.

What does it mean to listen actively ?


Listening actively


Working and researching in this area I offer an acronym to assist with listening actively. This acronym is PASSED. PASSED stands for


Ask open ended questions


Suspend judgment


Do not offer advice.

Paraphrasing involves using different words than the speaker and offering what you heard overall. You may offer a more concise commentary to demonstrate that you clearly understand what was said. If you do not have that quite right the other party would likely provide you with additional commentary to make sure both of you are on the same page.

Asking open ended questions means to let the other person talk. While they are talking think about what else you might want to ask to demonstrate that your are listening. It is recommended by Dr. Dan Shapiro that you listen for at least 10 minutes with his short video on How to Argue He suggests to check for understanding, appreciate the other person as a person, and look for areas of common ground and an emotional connection focusing on interests.

Suspending judgment is hard. When the other party may say something that may irritate you, it is hard to remain calm, confident, and feel competent. However, by focusing on listening and asking open ended questions this may help you suspend judgment

Empathy means to empathize by putting yourself in the other party’s shoes. Empathy involves you sharing what you hear as the feelings and the emotion of the other party by being compassionate. Empathy is complex. You may likely be sharing that you understand the emotion that the other party is experiencing.

Not offering advice is hard too. When you feel that you are being attacked your natural inclination is to fight back and let them know what you think. When you are listening actively you are making a conscious effort  to listen. This means that you are making the effort to listen fully so that later you may want to offer what you think




Listening actively is especially important. Everyone wants to be listened to and to be respected. The powerful video by Dr. Jermaine Davis illustrates how important listening was in his case. Building on this commentary, reflecting on your and the other party’s needs and feelings, and listening actively can go al long way promoting understanding. When someone has been listened to, they are far more apt to listen to you. By building a connecting relationship, listening actively and educating judiciously it is possible to overcome conflicts and promote collaboration.


If you’re looking for some assistance or want to learn more related to collaboration or conflict resolution, or enhancing your Servant Manager skills, check out these links.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]