He had to say it twice.

In fact, he could have said it 5 times.

I don’t remember.  I wasn’t listening.

I had an intention for the call, so I didn’t hear him tell me that he’d be happy to get back to me after the funeral.

….wait, what? Funeral?

Finally, like a thief caught stealing time, I snapped to.


“I’m sorry, did you say funeral?”

“I did.”

“Oh my gosh.  I’m so sorry.  What happened?”

“My father and my father-in-law past on the same day.”

“Oh, no.  I had no idea.”

“Well, I just told you.”

“You did?”


He could have said it 5 times.


There’s a dull pain that pushes at the top of my stomach when I become aware of my own hypocrisy.

I spend hours of my life encouraging others to listen, and just when someone needed me to listen, I didn’t.


There are three reasons why we don’t listen.

1)   Intention vs. Attention:

Here’s the difference: Intention is all about ME, attention is all about THEM.

When we place intention ahead of attention, we stop listening. We become so concerned with what we want, we can’t hear what they need. When we lead with intention, we have placed our needs above theirs.   

This often happens when we listen to people we don’t agree with.  In disagreement, we often force our intentions.  We try to change their mind, or defend ourselves, or prove them wrong.  They stop being a person, and they become an opinion. 

Intention, no matter how genuine, is the enemy of listening.

If you want to listen, pay attention before you play intention.


2)   Judgment:

We often interpret our present through the lens of our past.

We also learn through the lens of our past.  I once put a quarter on a railroad track and almost got hit by a train.  As the train went by, a cop turned his lights on, pulled up to me, and we had a “talk”.  That’s another story--but I can say that I haven’t done it since. 

The lens of our past can be the filter through which we develop wisdom. 

But, sometimes the lens of our past is a rear view mirror, and we stop listening because we don’t like or trust the person speaking.  We use the lens of our past to judge them.

We become deafened by thoughts like:  “what he did to me”, “people like this usually”, or “she always does this”.   

Our past can interrupt our ability to be present with the person in front of us.

When we reduce the other person to their past, we fail to listen in the present, and we miss who they are becoming in their future.


3)   Comfort in the Disconnect:

Listening is a shared moment when two people experience the unspoken peace of self-forgetfulness.  Sometimes, I describe the Free Listening experience as “Free With-ing”.

But, it’s hard to listen when we don’t see ourselves in the other person. When we keep a sterile distance between their problems and ours, we never fully realize what it means to listen. 

Empathy, not sympathy is the key to listening.

If you want to listen and be with someone, you must be with them in their weakness, their fear, their insecurity, and realize they are just like you.

You have to see them not as something separate from you, but as something beautifully connected to you.

Disconnection is comfortable, and easy. 

Connection is risky, dangerous, but beautiful, and required.

So, why didn’t I listen to my friend? 

The answer is simple.


I didn’t listen because “me” got in the way.

Me, the listener.


Have you gotten in the way of your listening?