Conversations are the foundation of good relationships. So naturally, being a good listener is critical for good communication. That’s right, being a good listener.

Think about it. Many people are excellent at talking. But is that the only element of communication? Not really. Communication is a two-way process. It also needs good listeners.

It was only after I watched the 2013 war drama The Book Thief that I learned the value of listening actively. The two main characters in the film, Liesel and Max, come from completely different worlds, but they are able to create a beautiful bond through sharing and listening. Their mutual respect and curiosity for what the other has to say become the bedrock of an abiding friendship.

The film set in Nazi Germany is the story of nine-year-old Liesel living with her adoptive family, who turns to books for comfort during wartime. She hunts for books at every opportunity: she rescues a book from a pile being burned by the Nazis and even steals some from the mayor’s wife.

She then begins reading these stories to Max, a Jewish refugee being sheltered by her foster parents in their home. He listens intently and engages with the characters and their worlds. For Max, living alone in constant fear of discovery, the stories are his solace and joy.

You also see the magic of finding comfort in listening when Liesel’s neighborhood is bombed and people are forced to hide in a bunker. Liesel then narrates a story of a boy’s ghost that people listen to with rapt attention while they try to forget the terrifying sound of bombshells. That’s the power of listening. People find comfort and shelter in the story narrated by Liesel.

The Book Thief, an adaptation of a best-selling book, shows how listening can heal, give comfort, and keep hope alive during a crisis. It also reinforces the importance of listening deeply and empathy in communication. Liesel’s empathy towards Max’s suffering and her authentic attempt to help him heal is central to their beautiful relationship.

Empathy isn’t often taken seriously enough, but it’s a key skill for building connections and relationships. To be a good listener, it’s critical to develop the EAR of Listening found in Harappa’s Listening Actively course. In other words, you need to build the three qualities of Empathy, Authenticity, and Respect.

Empathy is a person’s ability to listen, understand, and relate to emotions and constraints. Apart from being empathetic, you have to be authentic and genuinely curious about what the speaker is saying to build a connection. And respect, when displayed by a listener, makes the speaker feel valued, and their ideas and feelings acknowledged.

Listening to people is important at all times. But it’s even more important during these times of crisis when empathetic, authentic, and respectful listening can provide comfort to people. If you are a good listener, people will seek you out, trust you, and rely on you. At work, active listening enhances productivity because it breaks down barriers between people. As a result, issues and challenges between colleagues and teams are resolved faster.

Harappa recommends The Book Thief for you to watch this weekend. It will help you appreciate the importance of listening in healing. 

Also, enroll now for our Speaking Effectively course under the Communicate Habit from Harappa Education. Learn how to customize messages and use emotions and facts to communicate convincingly with these online courses. Explore topics such as Active Listening, How to Improve Listening Skills, Qualities of a Good Listener, Listening Process, and Listening Barriers from our Harappa Diaries blog section to ace your soft skills.

Ankit Batheja is a Manager in the Learning Impact Team at Harappa Education. He dreams and he often finds traces of fiction in real life. He is learning to cook and practices patience to get the right flavor every time. 

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