7 Chapter 7 – Listening and Compassionate Listening

Listening and Compassionate Listening

If we can change ourselves, we can change the world…This is the essence of compassionate listening: seeing the person next to you as part of yourself…As the Compassionate Listening Project has pointed out, when you approach a moment without judgment and can connect with the sacredness of the agency of each soul, we can transform the moment…[and] evolve.
~ Rep. Dennis Kucinich  (Hoffman, 2013, p.317)

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”~Stephen Covey

Chapter Overview

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. ~Epictetus.

Listening seems like a natural and automatic process. However, though it is a process, it is far from intuitive or obvious. While preparing to write this chapter, we noticed that most materials on listening stem from a primarily American cultural perspective. Nevertheless, of course, it is not. Different cultures listen in different ways. A student from Cameroon noted that in his culture, noted that “…communicating with family means avoiding eye contact with parents or elders within both family and society in general. To communicate respect, we look down. Giving a speech where we need to look into our professors’ and classmates’ eyes is scary. Also, to listen, we look down to show respect.”

This chapter includes two sections. Section one will define listening and its processes and address barriers to listening and poor listening behaviors. In section two, we will address different skills for improving one’s listening in intercultural communication contexts.

creative commons photo from burst.shopify.com

Section One Learning Outcomes

  • Define Listening.
  • Describe and diagram the listening process.
  • Discuss some of the environmental and physical barriers to effective listening.
  • Explain how cognitive and personal factors can present barriers to effective listening.
  • Discuss common bad listening practices.


Listening Defined

​​​​“Listening is the learned process of receiving, interpreting, recalling, evaluating, and responding to verbal and nonverbal messages” (Communication, 2016, p. 230). Understand that listening is a choice. Hearing is not a choice. Instead, according to Kristin Fuller (2021) who wrote The Difference Between Hearing and Listening, Psychology Today, posted July 8, 2021 “…[hearing] is a physiological reaction caused by sound waves …that stimulate the ear’s… sensory receptors. Our brain screens only a portion of stimuli and allows only a select few to come into focus. It is a passive process depending upon and responding to select auditory stimuli (selective hearing) requiring no attention. Indeed, as it is ingrained and familiar, it may only hear what is ingrained and reinforce stereotypical or prejudicial views due to one’s familial upbringing and comfortable cultural cues. Rember, though, that hearing is not listening. There are “…significant differences between the two, with one (listening) being more active, requiring effort, and the other (hearing)being involuntary and natural…passive, physical act that requires one sense and has to do with the perception of sound. It does not rely on concentration. Hearing is like collecting data; we hear sounds and words all day long, even if we are not paying attention to them…[This is akin to] passive listening, characterized as being disconnected, inattentive, and unreceptive. A passive listener has no desire to contribute effectively to the conversation…[and] most likely already has an opinion formed and is unwilling to work with the other individual to come to a solution” (Fuller, 2021) When actively listening from an intercultural perspective, we must closely examine our preconceived prejudices, biases, and stereotypes, whatever their cause, so that authentic communication between oneself and the unknown “other” can occur.

Visual stimuli (what we see – and we do see things differently due to our visual physical ability in addition to any physical barriers that might detract from seeing) are often not considered part of listening, though they affect listening. When we hear a speaker, we take nonverbal cues from their facial and bodily expression and eye contact rather than simply from listening to their words. In Chinese culture, making direct eye contact signifies anger and is a personal challenge. In Japan, pointing fingers at another is “calling them out” or blaming them for something – and thus can indicate a higher position or status that may lead to problems in a business context.

Remember that visual cues absent in phone calls, texts, and emails often lead to misunderstandings that visual and auditory cues help clear up. Further, listening is a skill one can cultivate. Individuals from the deaf community remind us they still listen – just differently than one who has the physical ability to hear. Notice, though, that the interpretation of how and whether one is listening is often found within a cultural context. For example, giving eye contact in an American context would be seen as a direct and helpful communication tool, not an aggressive “stare down,” yet, some  Asian and African cultures view direct gazes as inappropriate. Looking through the Cultural Atalas, you will find some countries use eye contact in the same way Americans do.  Observing and adapting to the communication partner will be helpful in an intercultural communication conversation or interview. Consider the many questions going through one’s head: “Is my partner looking down–maybe I should look away?” or “Is this person giving me the stare-down?” Listening skills, especially in an intercultural setting, take time to cultivate, and interpretation of the message is challenging. Learning the skills of active and compassionate listening then assists one in developing intercultural communication competence.

The Process of Listening

Intercultural Communication, like all communication, seeks to share and understand the meaning in diverse settings. Below, Green, Keith Green, Fairchild, Knudsen & Lease-Gubrud (2018) explain the process of listening in the materials accessed from their creative commons OER book, Introduction to Communication: A Free, Open-Source, Introductory Communication Studies Text, as follows:

Human relationships are built on communication.  As we speak and listen, learn about each other, and get to know each other in personal ways, relationships grow and thrive.  Our relationships (interculural as well) are characteried  by how we communicate, including what we talk about, when we talk about it, and how we respond.  The substance of relationships is how we communicate.  Interaction is comprised of what we tell each other (disclosure) and how we attend to each other’s disclosure (listening).

We engage in four communication behaviors: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Of these four, listening is by far the most frequently used. According to the International Listening Association:

Listening is the process of receiving, constructing meaning from, and responding to spoken and/or nonverbal messages’ (Verderber and MacGeorge, p. 197). Ever since the first effort to study and assess listening time, the Rankin study of 1926, researchers have looked at how we use each of these behaviors within our overall communication package (Brownell, 2010). Taking into account a range of studies since Rankin’s first in 1926, we can estimate the breakdown of our communication behaviors. The specific distribution of our individual communication behaviors [such as listening] will change daily and according to variables such as jobs, interests, and activities….’

The most used communication behavior, listening, is rarely taught as a unique, identifiable skill. “Listening is the most relational of all our communication behaviors. How we listen to another affects our relationships more than anything else we do. Too often, we focus on what to say when we need to focus far more on just listening to what the other person is saying. When others focus on us, attending to what we have to say, and listening and understanding our concerns, they give us a powerful message of worth and value (Green, Fairchild, Knudsen & Lease-Gubrud, 2018, Module 5, Section 1).

Listening is rarely taught as a unique, identifiable skill. Listening is the most relational of all our communication behaviors. How we listen to another affects our relationships more than anything else we do. Too often, we focus on what to say when we need to focus far more on just listening to what the other person is saying. When others focus on us, attending to what we have to say, and listening and understanding our concerns, they give us a powerful message of worth and value (http://introtocommopensource.ridgewater.edu/ModuleV/ModVSect1.html#empathic).

Listening in an intercultural context is the process by which people of different cultures listen to each other to facilitate good communication. Notice above that the process of listening demands that we mindfully listen to what the “other” is saying. In doing so, we lift the speaker who, because we listen, feels that their message is important, meaningful, and therefore appreciated. Likewise, when those we speak to listen genuinely, we feel affirmed; we receive a “…powerful message of worth and value” (Green, et al., 2018).

See the video “Listen! It’s Important for Intercultural Dialogue


Listening Model

Below, Green, Keith Green, Fairchild, Knudsen & Lease-Gubrud (2018) explain listening with the HURIER model. As you review this model, you will notice that the process is very similar to the selection, organization, interpretation process of perception.

Just like other aspects of communication, listening is a multi-faceted process.  Judi Brownell (2010), author of Listening: Attitudes, Principles, and Skills, proposes the HURIER model as a description of the listening process.  The HURIER acronym stands for:


The HURIER model is not a series of steps; the model functions to process interdependent components of stimuli.

A model of the listening process that is explained below.
HURIER Listening Model
  • Hearing is our ability to focus on and perceive the stimuli itself.  In addition to the basic, physical process of capturing and processing the stimuli, the hearing stage also addresses our need to focus and concentrate on the message.
  • Understanding is decoding the message.  We attach meaning to the symbols we receive, so we are focusing only on the verbal message.
  • Remembering is retaining what we have heard to be able to act on the message.
  • Interpreting is taking the message we have decoded, consider the whole communication package of nonverbal and verbal, and look deeper at what was meant and what underlying messages may be involved.
  • Evaluating is making judgments about what we have heard.  In a critical listening situation, we obviously need to make careful judgments about what we are being told.  In an interpersonal setting, we need to make judgments of the degree of the emotion and what our role as a friend may be.
  • Responding refers to how we react to the message.  We need to consider what is more appropriate or less appropriate as feedback.  We also need to realize our comments, questions, or even nonverbal feedback can send strong messages about the worth of the other person and the importance of their concern.

Attribution: Green, Keith Green, Fairchild, Knudsen & Lease-Gubrud (2018)


Listening Styles

The following materials share different listening styles from Communication in the Real World (2016):

Just as there are different types of listening, there are also different styles of listening. People may be categorized as one or more of the following listeners: people-oriented, action-oriented, content-oriented, and time-oriented listeners. Research finds that 40 percent of people have more than one preferred listening style, and that they choose a style based on the listening situation (Bodie & Villaume, 2003). Other research finds that people often still revert back to a single preferred style in times of emotional or cognitive stress, even if they know a different style of listening would be better (Worthington, 2003).

  • People-oriented listeners are concerned about the needs and feelings of others and may get distracted from a specific task or the content of a message to address feelings.
  • Action-oriented listeners prefer well-organized, precise, and accurate information. They can become frustrated when they perceive communication as unorganized or inconsistent or a speaker as “long-winded.”
  • Content-oriented listeners are analytic and enjoy processing complex messages. They like in-depth information, learning about multiple sides of a topic, or hearing multiple perspectives on an issue. Their thoroughness can be challenging to manage if there are time constraints.
  • Time-oriented listeners are concerned with completing tasks and achieving goals. They do not like information perceived as irrelevant and like to stick to a timeline. They may cut people off and make quick decisions (taking shortcuts or cutting corners) when they think they have enough information.
See the textbook: Interpersonal Communication in Contexts for more strategies regarding learning styles in interpersonal contexts.
Like interpersonal communication, For intercultural communication, understanding the listening styles of different cultures enhances learning and helps prevent misunderstandings. Remember that the “…classroom audience will listen to your speeches in this course. Your classmates come from many religious and ethnic backgrounds. Some of them may speak English as a second language. Some might be survivors of war-torn parts of the world such as Bosnia, Darfur, or northwest China. Being mindful of such differences will help you prepare a speech in which you minimize the potential for misunderstanding” (Indiana University Press, Department of Communication, Indiana State University, Module 5:3, Listening Styles, 2022).

Deeper Dive: Listening Styles

Pointing to an article in the International Journal of Listening, where Watson, Barker, and Weaver identified four listening styles: people, action, content, and time (1995), Indiana State Module 5:3, Learning Styles, are discussed and quoted directly below:
Photos from Rochester’s Human Libary experience.


People-oriented listeners are interested in the speaker. People-oriented listeners listen to the message to learn how the speaker thinks and feels about their message. For instance, when people-oriented listeners listen to an interview with a famous rap artist, they are likely to be more curious about the artist as an individual than about music, even though the people-oriented listener might also appreciate the artist’s work…. [if] listening to a doctor who responded to the earthquake crisis in Haiti, such a listener might be more interested in the doctor as a person than in the state of affairs for Haitians. Why did they go to Haiti? How did they get away from their normal practice and patients? How many lives were saved? After the earthquake, they might be less interested in the equally important and urgent needs for food, shelter, and sanitation.

People-oriented listeners are likely to be more attentive to the speaker than to the message. If you tend to be such a listener, understand that the message is about what is important to the speaker, not to you as a listener.


Action-oriented listeners are primarily interested in finding out what the speaker wants. Does the speaker want votes, donations, volunteers, or something else? It is sometimes difficult for an action-oriented speaker to listen to the descriptions, evidence, and explanations with which a speaker builds their case.

…[such a] listener seeks a clear message about what needs to be done and might have less patience for listening to the reasons behind the task. This can be especially true if the reasons are complicated. For example, when you are a passenger on an airplane waiting to push back from the gate, a flight attendant delivers a brief speech called the pre-flight safety briefing [and not]… the findings of a safety study or the regulations about seat belts, [though]…mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Instead, the attendant says only to buckle up so we can leave. An action-oriented listener finds “buckling up” more compelling than a message about the underlying reasons.


Content-oriented listeners are interested in the message, whether it makes sense, what it means, and whether it is accurate. When giving a speech, many members of the classroom audience will be content-oriented listeners who will be interested in learning from you. You, therefore…[should] represent the truth in the fullest way you can. You can emphasize an idea, but if you exaggerate, you could lose credibility in the minds of your content-oriented audience. You can advocate ideas that are important to you, but if you omit important limitations, you are withholding part of the truth and could leave your audience with an inaccurate view.

Imagine delivering a speech on the plight of orphans in Africa. If you just talk about the fact that there are over forty-five million orphans in Africa but do not explain further, you will sound like an infomercial. In such an instance, the audience’s response will likely be less enthusiastic than desired. Instead, content-oriented listeners want to listen to well-developed information with solid explanations.

time with a clock!
Lori’s father (with our son Jordan) ALWAYS wants a clock in his room – Jordan just hung this clock.


People using a time-oriented listening style prefer a message that gets to the point quickly. Time-oriented listeners can become impatient with slow delivery or lengthy explanations. This kind of listener may be receptive for only a brief amount of time and may become rude or even hostile if the speaker expects a longer focus of attention. Time-oriented listeners convey impatience through eye-rolling, shifting in their seats, checking their cell phones, and other inappropriate behaviors. If you have been asked to speak to a group of middle-school students, you need to realize that their attention spans are not as long as those of college students. This is why speeches to young audiences must be shorter or broken up by more variety than speeches to adults.

In your professional future, some of your audience members will have real-time constraints, not perceived ones. Imagine that you have been asked to deliver a speech on a new project to the board of directors of a local corporation. Chances are the people on the board of directors are all pressed for time. If your speech is long and filled with overly detailed information, time-oriented listeners will simply start to tune you out as you are speaking. If time-oriented listeners start tuning you out, they will not be listening to the message. This is not the same as being a time-oriented listener who might be less interested in the message content than in its length.



Deeper Dive: How You Can Hear with your Eyes

The following video explains how you might reconsider your approach to listening. The speaker is from Canada.

Reflection Questions:

  1. How might your intercultural listening be improved after learning more about nonverbal communication norms associated with “good listening behaviors” in your own culture and within the speaker’s home or co-culture?
  2. For the intercultural conversation and/or site visits associated with assignments for your Intercultural Communication class, you might visit the Cultural Atlas and review the cultural practices of the culture and even ask about these norms.
  3. What other sources could you use to learn about your interviewee’s cultural norms?
  4. As you continue to read, remember nonverbal communication impacts the listening experience. How can you personally become more attentive to your nonverbal listening behaviors?



Intercultural and Cross-Cultural Barriers to Listening

Communication students will study listening in most, if not all, communication courses. We face many barriers to listening within an intercultural or cross-cultural context. For example, the role privilege plays can help us understand how walls to good listening are heightened. See the University of MN, 2022: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/listening-essential-tool-anti-racism-work.

Listening is not simply hearing another person speak. We are talking about the practice of listening with the full intent to understand another, while engaging with the conversation in meaningful ways. It involves putting your ego aside, withholding judgment, and directing your full attention to the things the speaker is saying. It can also apply when you’re listening to the radio or reading an article that presents a different perspective. Listening is a practice of engaging with the world in an attentive, empathic way.

While we don’t always want to acknowledge it, we all have unconscious biases and unrecognized assumptions about [cultures or cross-cultures] with people who look different from us. And these assumptions can keep us from hearing what that individual is saying, from seeing who that individual really is. This may have been what was happening with Mei.  We can tackle this by setting an intention to really, actively listen to each other.

As sometimes uncomfortable or heated conversations about police brutality and racism begin to enter mainstream discourse, it’s important that we all take some time to learn what it means to truly listen. While you might feel a strong need to speak out on these issues, give your own perspective, or offer solutions that you think may work, start by listening deeply to what is being said.

If you come from a place of privilege, listening is the first thing you can do to practice anti-racism. Privilege manifests as a set of blinders on the world; those with privilege are often unaware of the harms they do to those without. BIPOC (an acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color) have been vocal about these topics for years but were largely not heard until the murder of George Floyd forced mainstream media and society to pay attention. We need to pay attention to the voices of those who have been doing the work all along. And we can best do so with listening, which provides a bridge to understanding the lived experiences of marginalized groups; an essential step in devising and implementing solutions for the future.

The University of MN (2022) shares three tips to keep in mind that can help center the materials presented in this chapter on intercultural and cross-cultural contexts and how listening can be used as a tool for anti-racism work. They share:

    1. Direct your full attention to the speaker. Quiet the background noise in your mind and focus on the speaker and the meaning behind the words they are saying. Using your full attention also involves letting go of the urge to craft a response as you listen. Instead, listen with your whole self, and trust that it is only through listening that you could be able to respond wisely–if a response is even necessary.
    2. Ask clarifying questions when appropriate. As you turn your attention to the meaning that is being conveyed by the speaker, you will undoubtedly encounter a need for clarification. Make sure to ask questions that grow understanding rather than questions that challenge a speaker’s perspective. Now is not the time to debate the validity of someone’s experience. Now is the time to learn.
    3. Choose when you speak. It is impossible to speak and listen simultaneously, so it’s essential to recognize that one comes at the expense of another. People in positions of privilege or power should be especially mindful of speaking over those without. If you are someone who tends to speak often, try taking a speaking break. You may be surprised by what you hear when you allow space for others’ ideas to emerge (University of MN, 2022).

What is a Listening Barrier?

Before looking at barriers to effective intercultural and cross-cultural listening, a better understanding of what listening barriers, in general,  include is noted in Communication in the Real World (2016):

Barriers to effective listening are present at every stage of the listening process (Hargie, 2011). At the receiving stage, noise can block or distort incoming stimuli. At the interpreting stage, complex or abstract information may be difficult to relate to previous experiences, making it difficult to reach understanding. At the recalling stage, natural limits to our memory and challenges to concentration can interfere with remembering. At the evaluating stage, personal biases and prejudices can lead us to block people out or assume we know what they are going to say. At the responding stage, a lack of paraphrasing and questioning skills can lead to misunderstanding.

Communication in the Real World (2016)  shares that bad listening practices are barriers that impact our ability to listen:

The previously discussed barriers to effective listening may be difficult to overcome because they are at least partially beyond our control. Physical barriers, cognitive limitations, and perceptual biases exist within all of us, and it is more realistic to believe that we can become more conscious of and lessen them than it is to believe that we can eliminate them altogether. Other “bad listening” practices may be habitual, but they are easier to address with some concerted effort.

Additional Barriers to Intercultural Communication and Listening

Barriers to listening and intercultural communication taken from Module 2:3, https://socialsci.libretexts.org/Lisa Coleman, Thomas King, & William Turner, Southwest Tennesee Community College: 


It is not unusual to experience some level of discomfort in communicating with individuals from other cultures or co-cultures.  It may be that we feel as though we will do or say the wrong thing.  This can make the interaction awkward or can lead us to avoid opportunities for intercultural communication. Although not as detrimental as ethnocentrism or stereotypes, anxiety can prevent us from making intercultural connections that will enrich our lives.

Assumption of Similarities

Although you know differently, many people mistakenly assume that simply being human makes everyone alike.  However, as we’ve discussed, values, beliefs, and attitudes can vary vastly from culture to culture.  Those who assume a person from another cultural background is just like them will often misread or misinterpret and perhaps even be offended by any intercultural encounter.  In intercultural communication, assume differences in communication style will exist that you may be unaware of.  It is important to avoid interpreting another individual’s behavior through your own cultural lens.


Where did you start reading on this page? The top left corner. Why not the bottom right corner, or the top right one? In English, we read left to right, from the top of the page to the bottom. But not everyone reads the same. If you read and write Arabic or Hebrew, you will proceed from right to left. Neither is right or wrong, simply different. Americans tend to say that people from England drive on the “wrong” side of the road, rather than on the “other” side. You may find it hard to drive on the other side of the road while visiting England, but for people in the United Kingdom, it is normal and natural.  A high level of appreciation for one’s own culture can be healthy; a shared sense of community pride, for example, connects people in a society. But ethnocentrism can lead to disdain or dislike for other cultures and could cause misunderstanding and conflict. Ethnocentrism assumes our culture or co-culture is superior to or more important than others and evaluates all other cultures against it. To dismantle ethnocentrism, we must recognize that our views of the world, what we consider right and wrong, normal or weird, are largely influenced by our cultural standpoint and that our cultural standpoint is not everyone’s cultural standpoint. This ethnocentric bias has received some challenge recently in United States’ schools as teachers make efforts to create a multicultural classroom by incorporating books, short stories, and traditions from non-dominant groups.

Ethnocentrism shows up in large and small ways.  A “small” way might be in disdain for other cultures’ or co-cultures’ food preferences. Some individuals express disgust at other cultures’ eating meat from a dog or guinea pig, for example, while they don’t question their own habit of eating cows or pigs. A “large” and one of the most horrific examples of ethnocentrism in history can be seen is in the Nazi’s elevation of the Aryan race in World War II and the corresponding killing of Jews, Gypsies, gays and lesbians, and other non-Aryan groups.


Stereotypes are oversimplified ideas about groups of people. Stereotypes can be based on race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation — almost any characteristic. They may be positive, such as all Asian students are good at math, but are most often negative, such as all overweight people are lazy.  Stereotyping is a generalization that doesn’t take individual differences into account.

Stereotypes are frequently expressed on TV, in movies, chat rooms and blogs, and in conversations with friends and family. Further research has found that stereotypes are often used outside of our awareness, making it very difficult to correct them. And when we are distracted or under time pressure, these tendencies become even more powerful (Stangor & Duan, 1991). Still, it’s crucial to try to recognize our own stereotypic thinking. Treating individuals according to rigid stereotypic beliefs is detrimental to all aspects of the communication process and can lead to prejudice and discrimination.


Prejudice is a negative attitude and feeling toward an individual based solely on one’s membership in a particular social group, such as gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, social class, religion, sexual orientation, profession, and many more (Allport, 1954; Brown, 2010). An example of prejudice is having a negative attitude toward people who are not born in the United States and disliking them because of their status as “foreigners.”

Because it is often difficult to recognize our own prejudices, several tests have been created to help us recognize our own “implicit” or hidden biases. The most well-known implicit measure of prejudice—the Implicit Association Test (IAT)—is frequently used to assess stereotypes and prejudice (Nosek, Greenwald, & Banaji, 2007). In the IAT, participants are asked to classify stimuli that they view on a computer screen into one of two categories by pressing one of two computer keys, one with their left hand and one with their right hand. Furthermore, the categories are arranged such that the responses to be answered with the left and right buttons either “fit with” (match) the stereotype or do not “fit with” (mismatch) the stereotype.

When our prejudices and stereotypes are unchallenged, they can lead to action in the forms of discrimination and even  violence. Racial discrimination is discriminationagainst an individual based solely on membership in a specific racial group. There have been a number of shocking highly publicized instances in which African-Americans were killed by vigilantes or law enforcement, one of the more disturbing being the case of George Floyd.  On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for over 8 minutes; almost 3 of those minutes were after Floyd was unconscious. (Dovidio et al., 2010).  And in late 2020, “the United Nations issued a report that detailed “an alarming level” of racially motivated violence and other hate incidents against Asian Americans.” According to a Pew Research Report, “32% of Asian adults say they have feared someone might threaten or physically attack them…with the majority of Asian adults (81%) saying violence against them is increasing. (Pew Research Center, Ap. 11, 2021)  Mexican Americans and other Latinx groups are also targets, both of citizens and police. (Dovidio et al., 2010)

Discussions about stereotypes, prejudice, racism, and discrimination are unsettling to some. However, we must recognize these attributes in ourselves and others before we can take steps to challenge and change their existence.

Attribution: Module 2:3, https://socialsci.libretexts.org/Lisa Coleman, Thomas King, & William Turner, Southwest Tennesee Community College: 


 Gender Spotlight

The authors of Interpersonal Communication: Context and Connection share the following:

There has been much debate over the impact of gender on listening. Research from the 20th century has resulted in stereotypes that should be re-examined. The initial research into what was called “masculine” or “feminine” speech focused on the speech communities in which we are raised. Research suggests that masculine communicators engage in “report” talk, whereas feminine communicators engage in “rapport” talk (Tannen, 1986, 2013). Those who engage in report talk are said to be concerned with exchanging information and accomplishing things. Those who engage in rapport talk are concerned with establishing connections and maintaining the relationship (Fixmer-Oraiz, N., & Wood, J. T., 2019).

This area of research has also been explored from a scientific perspective. According to audiologist Beth McCormick (2018), “Research findings suggest that men do in fact listen differently than women. But are the identified differences straightforward, clear cut or even black and white? Actually, they might be – gray and white that is. Our brains are composed of both gray matter and white matter.” A university study involving the University of California, Irvine, and the University of New Mexico, researched differences and found that “[t]he amount of gray matter was six times greater in the brains of the male research participants, while the women participating in the study had 10 times the amount of white matter the men did.” This finding supported the notion that men and women may “listen and assimilate information differently, [but] the difference does not appear to affect cognition or our ability to listen.”

What does all of this mean in terms of listening? People have different communication styles and, as a result, may engage in different listening styles, regardless of gender. We may prefer to engage in report talk when conversing with someone at work and may choose to engage in rapport talk when we are with our partners or friends. Although there are scientific differences from a biological perspective, one’s identified gender also impacts how they may listen. Having moved beyond binary views of gender, we know that our communication style is as fluid as our gender.


Attribution: 6.3: Functions of Listening by Elizabeth Coleman, Victoria Leonard is licensed CC BY 4.0.



Section Two: Improving Listening in Intercultural Contexts

  • Define Active Listening.
  • Define Compassionate Listening.
  • Discuss Deep Listening.
  • Practice Listening Skills in Intercultural Contexts.


Active Listening

LISTEN: Halverson-Wente photograph, used with permission

“Active listening refers to the process of pairing outwardly visible positive listening behaviors with positive cognitive listening practices. Active listening can help address many of the environmental, physical, cognitive, and personal barriers to effective listening… The behaviors associated with active listening can also enhance informational, critical, and empathetic listening” (Communication, 2016). Active listening is the “process of fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker. Developing proper active listening skills involves the utilization of both verbal and non-verbal cues to signal to the speaker that you are being fully attentive” (https://hr.berkeley.edu/active-listening.

Tips for active listening (Communication, 2016):

  1. Use of “I” statements to show the speaker that any reflection is “yours” and, as such, an interpretation.
  2. Nonverbally, active listeners try to, “SOFTEN” the communication situation to show nonverbally that one is listening. SOFTEN refers to the use of a Smile, Open Posture, Facial Expressions, Touch (by shaking hands or another appropriate manner), Eye Contact, Nods (Wassmer, 1978).
  3. Reply with a paraphrase (or restatement in your own words) to show one is listening and to clarify the message.

Problems with “One Size Fits All” Advice

Active listening techniques are taught to help listeners become better prepared to listen and are designed to “show” the speaker that the listener is indeed paying attention. Active listening, then, is “…the process of fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker. Developing proper active listening skills involves the utilization of both verbal and non-verbal cues to signal to the speaker that you are being fully attentive” (https://hr.berkeley.edu/active-listening). However, like all communication skills, one must remember that this approach is contextual. Consider the advice given to readers of the Cultural Atlas about communicating with South Sudanese.

  • Nonverbal Communcation of South Sudan (from the Cultural Atlas, 2022):
    • Physical Contact: It is very rare to see open displays of affection between couples in public.
    • Personal Space: It is important to keep a fair amount of distance from those of a higher status.
    • Eye Contact: It is a sign of respect to divert one’s gaze in South Sudan. Direct eye contact can be interpreted as rude and as a sign of disrespect for another’s authority. Hence, some South Sudanese may keep it to a minimum when talking to superiors and elders. It’s best to make short and infrequent eye-to-eye contact and avoid steady gazes at those of the opposite gender.
    • Nodding: A single nod of the head downwards usually means “yes”, while a movement of the head upwards means “no”.
    • Expression: It is not commonplace to smile at strangers in South Sudan. Therefore, some South Sudanese may have quite a serious exterior upon first meeting people, reserving smiles for friends. Once they are familiar with someone, they generally become very animated.
    • Pointing: It is rude to point at people with a single index finger. However, people may do it to indicate ill feelings towards that person. They may also point with their tongue or with the back of their closed fist.

Imagine yourself waving and saying to a new friend from South Sudan, “Come over here,” and you use your index finger to beckon them, pointing it at them, then curling your finger toward you and out. You encode this as “Over here, my friend.” Meanwhile, the South Sudanese person may culturally perceive this as an insult and decode the message as your – “calling me like a dog.” That gesture is one given from power and degrades another (to put them in their place), according to the  Cultural Atlas and other research. Next, imagine you look right at that person and nod as they speak. You have smiled. From the scenario above, smiling at a stranger would be unusual. Therefore, using the “SOFTENS” technique outlined above might be seen as strange – or it might communicate a mixed message (why call me like a dog, then smile like we are friends when we are just acquaintances, what does this person want from me?).

waving on the beach in ColombiaAgain, this chapter points out the paradox that just as you “master” the skills of listening, you find yourself in a new situation and realize that not all cultures will share that same listening behavior. Within a country as vast as the United States, different regional areas communicate with distinct accents, pauses, and mannerisms. Imagine a midwesterner paraphrasing a New Yorker. When traveling with her best friend in Colombia, Lori found that listening to others within the friendly, “laid back” Caribbean Coast of Colombia, the small villages of central Colombia, and the fast pace (New York City feeling) of highly populated Bogata varied greatly.  Lori’s hosts mentioned city life and coastal life cultivate different paces in talking and listening. The pause time, the rate of speech, and even the verbal communication itself varied.  The hosts also shared that the words themselves differ in tone and emotional content – the Caribbean sweetness is also very direct. Just like the difference between the rate of speech, the rate of “waiting” to listen differs between New York City, NY and Rochester, MN, listening will differ within cultures/nationalities as well.

Life in the Caribbean is as amazing as Lillyam’s “aunt” shown here, in her upper  90’s, demonstrating her daily ritual of starting the day off with a dance:


Many communication textbooks share the skill of paraphrasing in the “listening chapter.” Communication in the Real World (2016) explains:

Paraphrasing is a responding behavior that can also show that you understand what was communicated. When you paraphrase information, you rephrase the message into your own words. For example, you might say the following to start off a paraphrased response: “What I heard you say was…” or “It seems like you’re saying…” You can also ask clarifying questions to get more information. It is often a good idea to pair a paraphrase with a question to keep a conversation flowing. For example, you might pose the following paraphrase and question pair: “It seems like you believe you were treated unfairly. Is that right?” Or you might ask a standalone question like “What did your boss do that made you think he was ‘playing favorites?’” Make sure to paraphrase and/or ask questions once a person’s turn is over, because interrupting can also be interpreted as a sign of not listening. Paraphrasing is also a good tool to use in computer-mediated communication, especially since miscommunication can occur due to a lack of nonverbal and other contextual cues.

There are three types of paraphrases. We’ll add more videos on paraphrasing later in the semester. Messages content – what is said. However, they also share a relational message that shares an emotional tone. Additionally, intent, or “why you are telling me this” can be paraphrased for clarification. Paraphrasing for intent is related to a perception check. In all forms of paraphrasing, the goal is, to begin with, “I” language, restate the message received, then ask for clarification. Note the differences in the three types of paraphrases.

  • Paraphrase for Content – or the Basic Paraphrase:
    • I statement: I hear you saying…
    • Restatement of what you said, that __________________________.
    • Ask for clarification: is that right?
    • Example:
      • I hear you saying you are from Cameroon, is that right?
  • Paraphrase for Emotional Tone:
    • I heard you say: __________________
    • It sounds to me like maybe you are feeling ________________.
    • Am I right? How are you feeling?
    • Example:
      • I noticed you said you are frustrated when people ask you again and again what you said.
      • It also sounds to me like maybe you are feeling sad.
      • Is that correct? How are you feeling?
  • Consider a Paraphrase for Intent (why they are telling you this):
    • I heard you say: ____________________.
    • I am wondering if you are telling me this because ___________________.
    • Can you tell me more?
    • Example:
      • I heard you mention that public speaking is hard and that you speak 3 languages.
      • I am wondering if you are telling me this so I can help you better understand how to approach this assignment and your feelings from an American experience.
      • Can you tell me more?

While the goals of “active listening” are to first, share reflect or information for the speaker, second, show the speaker you are listening, and third to help you, as a listener, retain the information shared by the speaker, some scholars in “Compassion Studies” stress the need to just listen without stopping the conversation or redirecting it. Many in the area of Trauma Informed Communication share this sentiment – don’t interrupt. Scholars in Compassion and Trauma-Informed Care Practices also share the danger of trying too hard to empathize. In the videos shared in the last section, you’ll hear a conflict that ensues when one speaker shares a comment much like this: “I know what you mean, we always want something we don’t have. I ALWAYS wanted curly hair and even got perms as a kid. It didn’t work out other thaTrauma Informed n frizzy hair.” Lori can remember making a similar comment, trying to show the connection to the speaker who was sharing the frustration of his thick curly hair. He was also trying to share how alienated he felt when white people would touch his hair which he wore in, as he called it, “a large-ass Afro.” In trying too hard to show connection, Lori now wishes she had just nodded and asked, “what did that feel like?” or even nothing at all. Perming one’s hair is not the same as having others touch you unsolicited – and it doesn’t begin to address the layers of frustration the speaker later shared about this experience. You will note a similar interaction in the highlighted videos below and in this week’s discussion board area.

Listening is part of the third component of intercultural communication competence (developing communication skills) – the other two competencies are motivation (motivated to do what is necessary for successful intercultural communication encounters) and possessing some knowledge of different cultures (Samovar, Porter, McDaniel, & Roy, 2017; Lustig and Koestler, 2010). Though practiced as a variety of skills that must be adapted to the intercultural context, active listening is a critical practice that makes intercultural communication encounters more successful. Hence, listening is part of all three components of intercultural communication competence. Again, keep in mind that culture affects listening and we all make mistakes. It is important to keep trying. Advice might seem contradictory, and, as pointed out, it can be! For example, different cultures put different values on silence and listening in their communication process. Many Asian cultures hold that words often clutter one’s understanding; silence may be preferable to talking – consider the Buddhist expression, “There is a truth that words cannot reach.”


Active Listening Tips for Intercultural Communication Situations

Rochester Diversity Council photo, used with permission

Listening is active and is part and parcel of effective and sensitive perception-checking that moves the conversation forward and demonstrates effective intercultural communication competence. While remembering each culture possesses unique communication norms, expectations, and behaviors, McLean (2018)  shares some general tips to facilitate active listening and reading:

  • Maintain eye contact with the speaker when culturally appropriate.
  • Don’t interrupt.
  • Focus on the message and how it is said, not your internal monologue.
  • Restate the message in your own words and ask if you understood correctly.
  • Ask clarifying questions to communicate interest and gain insight
    (McLean, 2018, Section 2.6).

Compassionate Listening

Defining Compassionate Listening

The concept of compassionate listening (in the literature, akin to mindfulness or empathy), it is argued, is a particularly effective listening posture–a touchstone for effective intercultural communication that enables one to respectfully communicate and learn with a profound richness and depth in an intercultural/diverse setting. Compassionate listening sometimes is called, “empathic” listening. However, compassionate listening is much more than showing empathy.

Empathy is a gateway to compassion. It’s understanding how someone feels, and trying to imagine how that might feel for you — it’s a mode of relating. Compassion takes it further. It’s feeling what that person is feeling, holding it, accepting it, and taking some kind of action. In metta or loving-kindness meditation practice, one can silently repeat phrases to others as a way of acknowledging them and our own interconnectedness. It’s easy and highly portable. When I’m on the train, I silently repeat phrases like, “May you be happy; may you be safe; may you be at ease; may you be free from suffering,” to the passengers, particularly those who look like they need it most. This plants the seeds of compassion, and we can find ourselves acting in compassionate ways that never would have occurred to us before. As it turns out, this ancient practice has some amazing scientific discoveries to give it cred (Chandler, n.d.).

A Deeper Dive: An Explanation of How to Listen with Compassion

The speaker below, “Prema,” talks about unsolicited advice, reminding listeners, “Unless I am asking someone straightforward, ‘can you tell me what to do,’ my sharing is not for you to get to that moment. My sharing is for me to be able to express how I am feeling or what’s going on.” She continues to mention that as a listener, the other person can help provide a space where “I am able to listen to myself.” She urges us to “feel,” not just hear, to connect to that person entirely. She mentions that often we have lost the power of connection to the mind’s almost scripted, trained movement toward fixing or solving, not just “being there” for the speaker.



The Practice of Compassionate or Deep Listening

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and Noel Peace Prize winner, asserts compassionate (deep) listening moves beyond mere interaction. He claims that compassionate listening can be used to help end suffering for individuals and societies. He discussed his notion of compassionate listening during an interview with Oprah Winfrey (Oprah Winfrey Network, 2012):

Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart. Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don’t interrupt. You don’t argue. If you do, he loses his chance. You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing.

Practicing self-care complements compassionate listening. Compassion is simply defined as showing care to someone who suffers. Often, listening to someone who “suffers” offers a true lifeline; however, it can also be draining and exhausting to the listener. Others might say it is renewing. It is a different listening and one not shared often in communication classes. One must understand, too, that not ALL situations call for compassionate or deep listening. Sometimes a paraphrase is just fine. Listening to someone you disagree with or hearing someone share a viewpoint on complex and controversial topics such as “Black Lives Matter” / “All Lives Matter” or standing/kneeling for the flag can take on a personal aspect that may thwart civil discussion. Dismissing the urge to “correct” can be difficult.

To practice “deep listening,” Rome (2010) suggests one must prepare physically as well as intellectually for compassionate listening. Rome’s article (https://www.mindful.org/deep-listening/) lists several activities one can practice increasing mindful listening.

Deep Listening involves listening, from a deep, receptive, and caring place in oneself, to deeper and often subtler levels of meaning and intention in the other person. It is listening that is generous, empathic, supportive, accurate, and trusting. Trust here does not imply agreement, but the trust that whatever others say, regardless of how well or poorly it is said, comes from something true in their experience. Deep Listening is an ongoing practice of suspending self-oriented, reactive thinking and opening one’s awareness to the unknown and unexpected (Rome, 2010).

Again, a fundamental approach to listening reminds us that sometimes “less is more” when it comes to “being there” for a friend or stranger. McLean (2018), as noted below, offers the following tips to facilitate listening and conversation, helping one be in the moment when things get tough:

    • Set aside a special time. To have a difficult conversation or read bad news, set aside a special time when you will not be disturbed. Close the door and turn off the television, music player, and instant messaging client.
    • Don’t interrupt. Keep silent while you let the other person “speak his [or her] piece.” If you are reading, make an effort to understand and digest the news without mental interruptions.
    • Be non-judgmental. Receive the message without judgment or criticism. Set aside your opinions, attitudes, and beliefs.
    • Be accepting. Be open to the message being communicated, realizing that acceptance does not necessarily mean you agree with what is being said.
    • Take turns. Wait until it is your turn to respond, and then measure your response in proportion to the message that was delivered to you. Reciprocal turn taking allows each person have his or her say.
    • Acknowledge. Let the other person know that you have listened to the message or read it attentively.
    • Understand. Be certain that you understand what your partner is saying. If you don’t understand, ask for clarification. Restate the message in your own words.
    • Keep your cool. Speak your truth without blaming. A calm tone will help prevent conflict from escalating. Use “I” statements (e.g., “I felt concerned when I learned that my department is going to have a layoff”) rather than “you” statements (e.g., “You want to get rid of some of our best people”) (McLean, 2018, Section 2.6).

Deep Listening

On May 12, 2013, Oprah Winfrey talked to Thich Nhat Hanh about “Deep Listening” – often also called “Compassionate Listening.” Listen the video below to learn more about how and why he practices this form of listening.



How you See Me Series – A platform for practicing compassionate listening

Overview: This textbook is dedicated to situations where you can listen to individuals from a vast variety of identities and backgrounds within these identities. As you listen to the stories, you will be prompted to consider, “How would I show the speaker I am listening” if you were speaking one-on-one. You can also see how the individuals listen to one another. You will try to practice listening skills in your own “real life.” We will use both the short edited clips below as well as a speaker who shares their story in more detail.

For now, we’ll look at these edited videos. We recognize that you might feel frustrated that the discussions are edited, we included these videos as they share a lot in a short time. The videos are short (All under 5 minutes). As you watch the videos, you will be able to use all of the skills we have covered in the previous chapters. Our goal is to highlight experiences that would call for active listening. We are certain there will be speakers who you agree with, ones you disagree with, as well as speakers you’d like to ask questions to. Try to prepare for listening by using the skills discussed earlier in the chapter. We have also included more “popular media” articles on compassionate listening and deep listening in this section.

*Note – some of the videos were not embedding correctly so we also added a link in the video title.

Martha Caldwell (2017) suggests:

1. Be fully present. We bear witness to someone’s felt experience by giving them our complete and undivided attention. Paying full attention when someone is speaking creates safety and focus in the classroom. Compassionate listeners maintain complete silence and pay attention not only to words they hear, but also to facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice, noticing even the silences between words.

2. Know listening is enough. Listening with deep attention involves a calm, relaxed state of mind, free of the desire to “fix” someone or solve their problems for them. It does not involve giving advice or intervening in any way. If our minds are busy coming up with solutions for the speaker, we fail to truly listen.

3. Respond with acceptance. Deep listeners are motivated by the desire to understand how others feel and how their experiences have affected them. Their genuine interest and heartfelt concern make it safe for others to share their vulnerabilities because they sense that what they say will be received without judgement.

4. Understand conflict as part of real-life learning. A learning community in which people are encouraged to be honest and express how they feel involves a degree of risk. Conflict may arise. Sometimes this happens, and working through difficult feelings may take time. However, when we stay connected and stick with the process, conflict can be a catalyst for positive change. When conflict can be resolved, relationships often become stronger.

5. Ask authentic questions to learn more. By asking open-ended questions like “What was that like for you?,” “Can you tell me more about that?,” or “What were you experiencing?,” compassionate listeners guide speakers to share more deeply. These questions are motivated by the desire to honestly learn more (as opposed to reinforcing preconceived notions). If they think they may not have understood something, listeners can repeat back what they think they heard and ask for clarification. “Did I hear that right?”

6. Be gentle with yourself. Deep listening involves compassion for yourself as well as for others. Accept yourself and your internal feeling responses without judgement. Allow yourself time to process and learn.

7. Treat the candidness of others as a gift. Honor the trust others have placed in you and keep what you hear confidential.

Compassionate listening skills can be taught as tertiary units in advisory groups, or in mindfulness, conflict resolution, or anti-bullying courses. Many teachers, however, embed them in their regular instruction. My colleague José’s first graders learn social-emotional relationship skills in daily meetings. They generate “rules of respect” for their classroom, and José says these norms “make the meaning of empathy explicit.”

Everyone wants something that they don’t have, or so one of the speakers below asserts. Listen to how the woman second from the left shares her response to the blonde woman in red’s comment (referred to above):


Reflection Activites:

  • Paraphrase for content what the woman in red shares about her hair.
  • Paraphrase for content what the woman 2nd from your left responds.
  • Related to the last chapter’s discussion on allyship, what does it mean to “stand back” or “give space” and what is the concept?
  • Looking at the above 7 steps, what would you most likely accomplish if you were in this group? Which would be the hardest?
    1. Be fully present. What would be easy/difficult to do “Bear witness to someone’s felt experience by giving them our complete and undivided attention?” “What might keep you from being fully present?” “Could you remain fully silent and maintain objectivity?”
      • List observations of:
        • facial expressions,
        • body language
        • tone of voice
        • silences between words.
    1.  Know listening is enough. “Could you be in a calm, relaxed state of mind, free of the desire to fix someone or solve their problems?”
      • Do you want to give advice?
      • Does your mind go to solutions?
      • What can you do to see that listening is enough vs. problem-solving?
    2. Respond with acceptance. Do you have a desire to understand how others feel and how their experiences have affected them? 
    3. Understand conflict as part of real-life learning.
      • How did you see the conflict? How do the speakers affirm the advice that “conflict can be a catalyst for positive change.”
      • Do you agree with the statement, “When conflict can be resolved, relationships often become stronger?”
    4. Ask authentic questions to learn more. Could you see yourself asking:
      • What was that like for you?
      • Can you tell me more about that?
      • What were you experiencing?
      • Can you paraphrase and ask a clarification question? Using I language, “listeners can repeat back what they think they heard and ask for clarification [such as] Did I hear that right?”
    5. Be gentle with yourself.
      • Are you able to, “accept yourself and your internal feeling responses without judgment?”
      • Would you be able to “allow yourself time to process and learn?”
    6. Treat the candidness of others as a gift. Would this be difficult or easy? Could you, honor the trust others have placed in you and keep what you hear confidential?

Compassionate Listening Skill Set 2: Five Practices of Compassionate Listening (Susan Partnow)

“The intention of Compassionate Listening is to access our deepest wisdom to transform separation and conflict into an opportunity for connection, healing and peace. Compassionate listening is:

    • A personal practice – to cultivate inner strength, self-awareness, self-regulation, and wisdom.
    • A skill set – to enhance interpersonal relations and navigate challenging conversations.
    • A process – to bring individuals or groups together to bridge their differences and transform conflict.
    • A healing gift – to offer compassion to a person who feels marginalized or is in pain (Susan Partnow, 2018).

How You See Me: Arab

Reflection Questions Based upon Susan Partnow’s Work:

This includes experiences from individuals who are Arab. What skills could you practice if you were in conversation with one of the speakers (or even just listening now?)

Cultivating Compassion. The article author suggests to:

  • Anchor in your own heart and essence and connect to another.
  • Cultivate compassion for yourself.
  • Find the feelings of the other within you and allow that to guide an atmosphere of
  • Experience and express gratitude and appreciation for yourself and others.
  • Seek the gifts offered by conflict and hurt.
  • Practice forgiveness of yourself and of others.
  • Engage in on-going personal work to heal your own wounds.

How You See Me: Asian

Developing the Fair Witness. If you were listening the speakers above, how would you be challenged to practice your ability to practice the skills suggested by the author:

  • Build capacity to stay centered in the “fire” of intense interactions or strong emotion.
  • Notice, unpack and contain your own triggers.
  • Look at a situation objectively by “going to the balcony”, considering each person’s role and stepping into their shoes to see their perspective.
  • Suspend judgment of yourself and others.
  • Distinguish the impact of someone’s words or actions from their intention.
  • Use language that reflects non-judgment (the language of the Fair Witness) when asking questions or providing feedback to others.
  • Seek information and experiences that expand your open-mindedness and increase your capacity to hold complexity and ambiguity.
  • Maintain a process of self-exploration to enhance your awareness and discern the voice of deep wisdom from the field of inner chatter (Partnow, 2018).

How You See Me: Black

Respecting Self and Others. This includes the ability to use the following skills that Susan Partnow (2018) lists. Would you be able to use these skills if you were listening to the individuals in the video above on “How You See Me: Black?”  Which could you practice well, which would be a challenge?

  • Resist giving advice unless asked.
  • Trust each person’s ability to solve his or her own problems (stay out of the rescue/drama triangle).
  • Discern how your emotional state impacts the group.
  • Practice self-care and take responsibility for your emotional well-being.
  • Be respectful of people’s differing tolerance levels and capacity for managing conflict.
  • Hold the intention to “do no harm.”
  • Take responsibility: “I am part of what is unfolding, not separate from it.”
  • Welcome connection yet set respectful limits, akin to creating a healthy membrane between yourself and another.

How You See Me: Latino

Again, leaning on the work of Susan Partnow (2018), which of the skills would you be able to cultivate, which skills might be difficult to practice of her fourth skill, “Listening with the Heart?”

  • Listening with the Heart. This includes the ability to:
    • Anchor in the heart when listening for the deeper qualities beneath the stories we hear.
    • Quiet your mind.
    • Stay grounded in your body.
    • Create spaciousness to manage the tension created by a multiplicity of views and feelings.
    • Offer listening as a gift, choosing to keep your opinions, stories and interpretations out of the way (“less is more”).

How You See Me: Body Size

How You See Me: LGBTQ



How You See Me: Women

How You See Me: Men

Gender Conversations can be hard to discuss. In the two videos above, the speakers share their experiences of being a woman and a man. These conversations, of course, do not share the experiences of nonbinary or gender-fluid individuals. The series did not include other gender expressions. How might you use the skills Susan Partnow (2018) suggests:

Speaking from the Heart. How could you use the suggestion Partnow (2018) shares that promote, “speaking from the heart” such as:

    • Anchor your energy in the heart when seeking words of understanding and connection.
    • Be courageous in giving voice to what has truth and meaning.
    • Use language that reflects your ability to connect to the wholeness of the other.
    • Use language that reflects a healing intention.
    • Identify in words underlying needs.
    • Use “reflective listening” effectively.
    • Name the essence of the issue, feeling, or concerns expressed.
    • Reframe issue, need, or situation to promote strength and healing.

How You See Me: Disability

  • Practice Paraphrasing: I hear you saying, __________________________________, is that right?
  • Practice a basic reflection: It sound to me like you are feeling ___________________________. How do you feel?
  • Practice an affirmation: I am honored to hear your feelings.

How You See Me: Why do Labels Matter?



  • Practice Paraphrasing: I hear you saying, __________________________________, is that right?
  • Practice a basic reflection: It sound to me like you are feeling ___________________________. How do you feel?
  • Practice an affirmation: I am honored __________________.

How You See Me: The Victim Card




  • Practice Paraphrasing: I hear you saying, __________________________________, is that right?
  • Practice a basic reflection: It sound to me like you are feeling ___________________________. How do you feel?
  • Practice an affirmation: I am honored __________________.


More to Consider in Listening: Trauma-Informed Approaches

As we continue to share information in this chapter, we’ll develop more discussion and questions about Trauma Informed practices. Here are some related videos on the topic for your information. Lori listened to this TED talk in a training session on Trauma Informed listening in educational settings. The trainer shared that if we think more about stepping back, thinking about the many lived experiences students bring to the classroom. The trainer asked us to expand our perceptional schemata — what if you could ask yourself what are 4 different reasons why this student is asking for help, what if you think about additional emotional barriers your students might bring to their homework deadlines, etc.  Trama Informed listening methods are not limited to intercultural settings. We think that this video will help you remember the variety of lived experiences each person brings to the listening situation. Just like the cultural iceberg theory, there is so much under the water when it comes to mental health experiences.

More information about the video below from the TED Talk YouTube Description

*TRIGGER ALERT – Suicide, Drug Abuse, and Abse are discussed.

Description: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) impact children into adulthood without social buffering. ACEs increases a person’s likelihood of trying to die by suicide by as much as 1200%, I almost lost my child at the tender age of 6, and consistent exposure to his family’s intergenerational trauma impacted my own mental and physical well being. Trauma and mental health are as important as physical health, without advocacy and support, the impact can be devastating to the individual and society. What do you want people to learn from your talk? I want people to learn two key things: the connection of mental health (especially ACEs) and physical health and the importance of everyone taking ownership by helping/advocating for those who didn’t have support as a child and their children (The Least and The Lost). What action items do you want people to take away from your talk? Learn more about ACEs. Volunteer to provide support; via foster care, respite, donations, advocacy (legislative and other) – and to just be more kind and understanding that everyone wasn’t born into the same circumstances. Carla Carlisle is a speaker, author, and mental health advocate. Carla became a foster parent in 2010 to a baby boy born two months prematurely. Her relentless quest for motherhood would lead her on an eight-year, unconventional journey to rescue the child she now calls her son. Carla’s calling is to minimize/eliminate Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their impact; focusing on family and children. She is an active Board Member of the Alexander Children’s Foundation (Alexander Youth Network), Storyteller with Mental Health America of the Central Carolinas, and volunteers with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (Charlotte Chapter). Carla works for a global financial services company in Charlotte, North Carolina. Carla earned her B.A. in sociology from Indiana University in Bloomington. She also earned an M.S. in human resources management from American University in Washington, D.C. and another in organizational development from Johns Hopkins University, Maryland. In addition, Carla has obtained a graduate certificate in change management from Johns Hopkins University. None of these degrees prepared her for loving and fighting for the life of the child of her heart. She is the proud mother of three boys and two dogs. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local communit (YouTube Description, 2022).

No Universal Definition of Trauma

Trauma is hard to define.  Many students will have their own lived experiences of trauma. Students in our course might work on a classroom assignment, interviewing someone from a country new to them, and not realize that the person grew up experiencing genocide, war, mass shootings, and other trauma.  At the same time, while the experience varies as much as our figure prints, other forms of trauma could be present. CHCS.org shares:

Experts tend to create their own definition of trauma based on their clinical experiences. However, the most commonly referenced definition is from the Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): ‘Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced byan individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical,
social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.’

  • Examples of trauma include, but are not limited to:
  • Experiencing or observing physical, sexual, and emotional abuse;
  • Childhood neglect;
  • Having a family member with a mental health or substance use disorder;
  • Experiencing or witnessing violence in the community or while serving in the military; and
  • Poverty and systemic discrimination
    Attribution: Key Ingredients for Successful Trauma-Informed Care Implementation by Christopher Menschner and Alexandra Maul, Center for Health Care Strateties

Want to learn more about Trauma Informed therapeutic related terms? See this Glossary of Terms Related to Trauma-Informed, Integrated Healthcare.


Key Terms in Chapter 7

  • Listening vs. Hearing
  • The Process of Listening
  • Compassionate Listening
  • Active Listening
  • Trauma-Informed Care Approach
  • Trauma
  • Gender and listening
  • HURIER Model of Listening (Hearing, Understanding, Remembering, Interpreting, Evaluating, Responding)
  • Listening Styles: people-oriented listeners, action-oriented listeners, content-oriented listeners, and time-oriented listeners.
  • Listening Barriers: anxiety, assumption of similarities, ethnocentrism, stereotypes, prejudice (and racial discrimination).
  • Paraphrase and types of paraphrases: content, intent, and tone
  • Encode/decode
  • Tips for improving listening


FYI – we found this video that you might find useful for your understanding – optional viewing

Works Cited and Attributions Forthcoming




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Developing Intercultural Communication Competence Copyright © 2018 by Lori Halverson-Wente is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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