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Powerful Listening: The Way of “What Else?”




I don’t remember who said it, but there is immense wisdom in the idea that the greatest barrier to effective communication is that we listen to respond, rather than to understand.


Psychology Today posted this article: The Absolutely Vital Importance of Listening. It got me thinking about a form of listening that I sometimes practice. I call it ‘The Way of What Else.'


The rule is, that I sit with whomever is doing the talking, and the only words I say are "What Else..?"


After the ‘talker’ expresses a thought, I remain quiet – giving them time & space to explore whether or not the thought is complete. After 10 seconds or so, if they haven’t started talking again, I respond with “What Else..?”


The question is posed kindly, and with genuine curiosity.

Talker: “So-and-so did this today, and it made me so freaking MAD. I can’t believe that they could do such a thing…”

Me: “What else..?”

Talker: “After that happened, another so-and-so said this…”

Me: “What else…?”

Talker: “I really felt this… so I did this… and it reminded me of this…”

Me: “What else…?”


This interplay can go on for quite some time, and I often hear things I don’t necessarily agree with. BUT –  truly listening isn’t about me. It’s about being present for someone else, who has something they need to express.


Truly listeni