NPSP25 Blog, February, 2024

John M Oldham, MD


How good a listener are you?  How well do you listen to what other people say?  And I’m referring especially to one-to-one conversations with people you know well or people you would like to get to know.  In today’s hustle-bustle world, it’s harder than it sounds.  In a recent op-ed piece in the NY Times ( entitled “The Value of Listening,” Thomas Friedman reflected on negative feedback from readers about a previous piece he had written.  He stated that one of the most useful lessons he has learned over 45 years as a journalist is to try to be a good listener.  And that involves respecting the people you’re listening to.  He said that the way people perceived respect “was if you listened—not just waited for them to stop talking—but deep listening.”

That goes for all of us, I’d say.  I know too many people who appear to be listening intently but who don’t hear anything being said.  It’s like the old joke about the guy who says “but enough about me, let’s talk about you.  What did you think of my latest book?”

Genuine listening involves not just respecting others but being interested in them as unique individuals.  If we disagree strongly on some points, that’s OK.  And it can be an opportunity to try and understand another person’s worldview.

In the language of NPSP25, are there some personality styles that involve being good listeners?  I’d suggest that those with high scores on self-confident, conscientious, sensitive, or devoted styles might be most likely.  But learning to listen can be a goal for anyone with any combination of styles.