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Listening

Updated: Oct 16, 2018

I’m great with faces, but lousy with names. I used to tell myself it was because I was so keen to connect and hear what someone was saying, to worry about remembering names. But I wonder if that’s really the case?

Anyone who’s read the wonderful book by Richard Trudgen ‘Why Warriors Lie Down and Die’ will know that in Yolnju culture in Arnhem Land, people are trained from birth to listen and absorb completely what is being said.


“Yolnju practice active listening. They give full attention to what a person is saying to them. This means they are not preoccupied with their response until they have truly heard what the person is saying. Sometimes they will ask a clarifying question or make a check-back statement as part of the listening/hearing process. This means that a Yolnju people in general, will not start to think a out a response until the speaker has finished and they have heard what is being said. …

Yolnju are taught from birth to think carefully about what they are going to say before they say it…The Yolnju style is to allow the speaker to have their full say. The listener will listen to what is said and then think carefully of the appropriate response. Their attention is directed to hearing the person correctly in the first place, not working out how to respond before the person is heard properly.” [1]



None of this ‘oh yes, that happened to me too …’ or constructing a counter argument in our heads if we’ve heard something with which we don’t agree. We all do it, most of the time, in our enthusiasm to tell our story and inevitably miss out on hearing the whole story being relayed to us.


The basis of coaching harks back to ancient ways – respectful listening to really hear what’s being said, as well as what’s not being said. This is what I continue to practice in my coaching and training business.


It is so unusual for someone to listen to us completely and not tell us their version of the same event or similar emotional experience. How long has it been since you told someone something without hearing their narrative?

[1] Richard Trudgen, Why Warriors Lie Down and Die, Chapter 4, The Essence of Human Interaction – Communication, Aboriginal Resource and Development Services Inc, 2000.

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