"Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand."

Karl Menninger


"Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery."

-Joyce Brothers


"Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice."

-William Shakespeare


"The word listen is derived from two anglo-saxon words. One word is HLYSTAN, which means "Hearing." The other is HLOSNIAN, which means to "wait in suspense." Listening, then, is a combination of hearing what the other person says and a suspenseful waiting, an intense psychological involvement with the other."

-Robert Bolton

"Every man....should periodically be compelled to listen to opinions which are infuriating to him. To hear nothing but what is pleasing to one is to make a pillow of the mind."

-St. John Ervine


"I found I had less and less to say, until finally, I became silent, and began to listen. I discovered in the silence, the voice of God."

Soren Kierkegaard


"Listening is a rare happening among human beings. You cannot listen to the word another is speaking if you are preoccupied with your appearance or impressing the other, or if you are trying to decide what you are going to say when the other stops talking, or if you are debating about whether the word being spoken is true or relevant or agreeable. Such matters may have their place, but only after listening to the word as the word is being uttered. Listening, in other words, is a primitive act of love, in which a person gives self to another's word, making self accessible and vulnerable to that word."

William Stringfellow


"Enlil heard the clamor and he said to the gods in council, "The uproar of mankind is intolerable and sleep is no longer possible by reason of the Babel." So the gods agreed to exterminate mankind."

The Epic of Gilgamesh


"Much of the conflict in our lives can be explained by one simple but unhappy fact: We don't really listen to each other."

-Michael P. Nichols


"When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen."

-Ernest Hemingway


"There is only one rule for being a good talker-learn how to listen."

-Christopher Morley


"When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen."

-Ernest Hemingway


"For twenty-five centuries, Western knowledge has tried to look upon the world. it has failed to understand that the world is not for the beholding. It is for hearing. it is not legible, but audible. Our science has always desired to monitor, measure, abstract, and castrate meaning, forgetting that life is full of noise and that death alone is silent: work noise, noise of man, and noise of beast. Noise bought, sold, or prohibited. Nothing essential happens in the absence of noise."

-Jacques Attali


"The outer ear includes the delicately sculptured and arranged auricle, a sound trumpet which catches the sound waves and guides them into a passage of about one-and-a half inches called the auditory channel. The outer third of this channel is lined with tiny, wax-producing glands and fine hairs that constitute a gentle but effective barrier to discourage inquisitive insects and keep out foreign bodies.

   Separating, the outer ear from the middle ear is the ear drum, or tympanic membrane, a thin sheet of tissue about a quarter of an inch in diameter. Sound waves vibrate the eardrum, which in turn touches the first of three moveable bones closely linked to each other. Called the auditory osicles, these bones are of unusual shapes which have given them their picturesque names. Attached to the eardrum is the malleus or hammer, which rests against the incus or anvil that in turn impinges on the stapes or stirrup.

   To the hammer, anvil, and stirrup is added a snail-shaped mechanism, the cochlea, known more popularly as the inner ear. Sound vibrations move the stapes or stirrup in and out of an oval window in the cochlea disturbing the liquid called perilymph which vibrates some of the twenty-four thousand fibers of the basilar membrane and stimulates the attached nerves.

   From this "organ of corti," as it is called, the neural current flows through the auditory nerve to the temporal lobe of the brain. The cortex or "bark" of the brain is gray in color and covered with a tremendous number of neurons which are interrelated and provide a fantastic number of circuits that can be hooked up, allowing the neural current to be routed in a great variety of directions.

   The whole operation of a sound wave hitting the ear, and being transmitted to the brain, takes place with lightning speed. The brain itself is programmed by years of experience and conditioning to handle the auditory impressions and which it is fed. Like a busy executive's efficient secretary who sorts out the correspondence, keeping only the most important for his personal perusal, some sounds are summarily rejected, while others have the total attention focused on them.

   This selective process carried on by the brain is the main distinction and difference between hearing and listening. From the total number of our auditory impressions we choose a small select number upon which to focus our attention. As the sounds come to us we hear; when we apply ourselves to their meaning and significance we listen.....

                              John Drakeford

                     The awesome Power of the Listening Ear


"....The deplorable habit of Americans having background music for everything they do can actually cripple the mental, emotional and creative abilities of a person, according to Dr. Franz Winkler*"

"Beware of Background Music," This Week Magazine, Sept 17,1961

"It may seem foolish to you, but you can actually increase your listening skill by doing a very simple thing. Each day, close your eyes for one minute and concentrate on the sounds you hear about you. Try it in different places where you find yourself. Don't think of anything except what you can hear. In this noisy age, we learn to shut out sounds for our own comfort; we do this unconsciously and it becomes  a habit. This habit can be detrimental when we really want to listen to something, so we need to be able to break the habit at will. Try it!"

Hugh P. Fellows

The Art and Skill of Talking with People


Book: "The Listening Experience: Elements, Forms, and Styles in Music" by James P. OBrien

Book: "Lend Me Your Ears: Great speeches in History" ed by William Safire

© 2001



Back to Chrestomathy             Next Page