Leadership and Deep Listening

Over the years, I have read much written by the Buddhist monk, Tich Nhat Hanh.  Recently a friend sent me a statement he made.

Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening.  You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart.  Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion.  Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less.  If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time.  For now, you don’t interrupt.  You don’t argue.  If you do, he loses his chance.  You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less.  One hour like that can bring transformational healing. (“Oprah Talks to Tich Nhat Hanh”,  Oprah.com, March 2010).


For years I have tried to teach the notion of deep listening as one of the underlying principles of great teaching and great leadership.  In one case I was in charge of a larger number of people who were trying to make a difference and often found themselves in teaching situations.  I spent an entire day training them and inviting them to teach by listening.  They did not understand because the concept was so foreign.

I was relentless.  For months I flooded them with examples and kept reissuing my invitation.  Gradually change occurred.  Some people began to see the possibility, and they experimented.  Soon I was flooded with examples of success.  I continued to expose the others to this social excellence.  Over time, a transformation occurred.  Nearly everyone learned to teach by listening.  This influenced not only their teaching, but it also change the culture of the organization.


  • For you what is the most important line in the quote?
  • Why is it hard to learn how to teach and lead by listening?
  • What might happen if you do?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?

4 comments on “Leadership and Deep Listening

  1. i just had a conversation with an upset comunity member… and i just couldnt bring myself to ask what was troubling him The Most.. i was afraid to go there….

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