The Art of Listening: Erich Fromm (1900-1980)

Listening is a key skill in all conflict negotiation, and I thought this quote and these six guides from Erich Fromm’s “The Art of Listening” very useful in their insights even for negotiating with an obvious opponent or even enemy. This extract is from Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings site. It is also true that our civilization is greatly damaged by the current listening drought….not only do our conflict fester as a result but our children are growing up emotionally impoverished…

Listening, Fromm argues, is “is an art like the understanding of poetry” and, like any art, has its own rules and norms. Drawing on his half-century practice as a therapist, Fromm offers six such guidelines for mastering the art of unselfish understanding:

  1. The basic rule for practicing this art is the complete concentration of the listener.
  2. Nothing of importance must be on his mind, he must be optimally free from anxiety as well as from greed.
  3. He must possess a freely-working imagination which is sufficiently concrete to be expressed in words.
  4. He must be endowed with a capacity for empathy with another person and strong enough to feel the experience of the other as if it were his own.
  5. The condition for such empathy is a crucial facet of the capacity for love. To understand another means to love him — not in the erotic sense but in the sense of reaching out to him and of overcoming the fear of losing oneself.
  6. Understanding and loving are inseparable. If they are separate, it is a cerebral process and the door to essential understanding remains closed.

About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Conflict Book Reviews, Conflict Processes, PERSONAL CONFLICT RESOLUTION: CREATIVE STRATEGIES, Ways to handle conflict and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Art of Listening: Erich Fromm (1900-1980)

  1. louploup2 says:

    I believe 4 and 5 paraphrase much of what Martin Buber was saying in Ich und Du (I and Thou).

    • Louploup2. Yes I think so too and yes clarity about oneself is critical to avoid that feeling of losing oneself that prevents reaching out to understand the other. I and Thou bridged but clarity about boundaries and different interests..

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