Listening With Your Mouth

By Greg Baer M.D.

November 30, 2011

Recently I watched Barbara interact with a number of people, and toward the end of the day she turned to me and said, "I'd like to be a Real Love coach. What do you think?"

"Perhaps," I said, "you could do that someday."

"Why do you say, someday?"

"I'm simply observing what you're doing now, and what I see would interfere with your being effective."

"What are you observing?"

"You listen with your mouth."


Listening is an intentional and profoundly loving act. The least requirement for listening is to have one's mouth closed, as Ursula K. Le Guin indicated when she said, "To hear, one must be silent." Similarly, Scott Peck said, "You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time."

Keep in mind that I would never have spoken to Barbara in this way had she not asked my opinion of her. Because she asked, however, I cared enough about her to help her see a quality in herself that was interfering with her personal happiness and with the richness of her relationships.

Most of us do not—cannot, really—listen to other people. Why? Because we don't want to? Because we're intentionally selfish? Not at all. We're just so empty that we're completely occupied with the task of getting other people to think well of us. If you are empty, therefore—which is true of nearly all of us—your primary motivation in any conversation is to persuade the other person that you are worth loving, and to protect yourself from any appearance that you might be unworthy of loving. With that mindset, you cannot listen.

True listening is not a technique. It becomes possible only as we feel loved enough to lose our emptiness and fear. Only then can we give our attention—our love—to another. When we do that, it blesses both the speaker and the listener.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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