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Listening, Erich 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 [her] mind, he [she] must be optimally free from anxiety as well as from greed.
  3. He [she] must possess a freely-working imagination which is sufficiently concrete to be expressed in words.
  4. He [she] 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 [her] own.
  5. The condition for such empathy is a crucial facet of the capacity for love. To understand another means to love him [her] — not in the erotic sense but in the sense of reaching out to him [her] 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.


Listening is one of the most important skills you can have

What We Are Reading

Resources for Dialogue between people with different points of view

Civil Conversations – Dialogue Resources

Living Room Conversations

  • Conversation Guide
  • Recorded conversations between groups of people, half of whom are conservative and half progressive.

Two websites that pair people “on different sides of the aisle”

  • Hi From the Other Side – Free, but there may be a waiting list to get matched.
  • Red Plus Blue – pairs up people of different political persuasions to be pen pals (actual pen pals, with pens, not e-mail). They do charge a fee.

“Better Angels –  works toward unity in this country. They want to help people “go beyond polarization and beyond compromise, toward a higher synthesis that reflects shared values and incorporates what is valid and useful on both sides.”

The heart of dialogue is listening. This book takes you step by step on a journey into good listening: The Sacred Art of Listening, by Kay Lindahl

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