How do I deal with meaningless arguments

Listen better


We assume that having two ears is enough for everyone to listen. And yet in some conversations we feel that the other person is putting their ears on the air and not picking up our message.

Since listening is initially an invisible mental process, its importance is underestimated and its omnipresence is barely noticed. Listening seems so natural because it is the first communicative skill that we acquire as we develop. It is the most important prerequisite for us to learn to speak, read and write.

Studies have shown that we spend 50 to 80 percent of our waking hours communicating. Depending on the profession, around 45 percent fall into listening. We use the remaining time to 30 percent speaking, 16 percent reading and 9 percent writing. Of all these forms of communication, listening is the least taught in homes, schools, universities, and businesses.

A large number of studies show that inadequate listening is the order of the day: Managers do not listen to their employees well, salespeople to their customers, colleagues to one another, men to their wives and vice versa. A study by management consultancy Proudfoot found that the most important reasons for management errors can be traced back to poor listening. However, the belief that you are a good listener is widespread.


What prevents us from listening

  • We think we already know the explanations and answers of our interlocutor. We don't want to know the other's "meaningless" arguments because we feel right.
  • We're looking for a keyword to take over the conversation again.
  • Our minds are on completely different things.
  • We follow the mistaken belief that listening means consent.
  • We are under time pressure and want to end the conversation as quickly as possible.


Three qualities of hearing

Listen means to shut up, occupy yourself with your own thoughts and wait to be able to speak for yourself.

Listen to means to take in what the other person is saying without, however, trying to recognize what is to be expressed.

To listen means putting yourself in the other person's shoes and paying full attention to them. Information received audibly and visually is perceived and processed equally. The interlocutor is shown appreciation through attitude and reactions.



The interpretation of the Chinese character for "hearing" provides information about the interrelated skills that a good listener possesses:

  • Attention (ears)
  • Power of observation (eyes)
  • Empathy (heart)
  • Discipline (King) ´


We can see much better from our listening than from our speaking whether we show appreciation and understanding to other people. Even and especially when it is difficult.

Listening is particularly important in difficult conversational situations such as conflicts and negotiations. For a constructive conflict resolution and successful conversation it is crucial to always react appropriately to the situation, which is constantly changing with every statement. If information is not recorded, the conversation process cannot be properly assessed. This means that your own answers do not have the intended effect, as the appropriate reference is not made. In other words: only those who can listen well can make a successful contribution to a conversation.


To master this challenge, partner-oriented and active listening is useful:

  • The prerequisite for active listening is to put yourself aside, to accept the other person and to show benevolence and interest towards them.
  • We achieve a pleasant conversation atmosphere by turning to our interlocutor in body language, always letting him speak and showing interest and understanding through attention signals (eye contact, approval with “yes”, “aha” or the like and nodding).
  • If the partner takes a break from speaking, it is good to endure it. It triggers new speech impulses in him.
  • Taking short breaks before starting your own contribution creates calm and structure.
  • Repeating an issue in their own words already took place among the ancient Greeks. They called this technique "paraphrase". In Socrates' dialogues, paraphrases have already been made. In this way, interest in what has been said is expressed, misunderstandings prevented and the other person is encouraged to continue speaking. Example: "If I understand you correctly, then you are Opinion that the works council does not adequately represent your interests. "
  • In contrast to paraphrasing, verbalizing repeats the other person's emotional statement. The aim is for him to become aware of his own feelings and to open up further in the conversation. Example: "You felt betrayed in this measure and are now very disappointed."
  • Further important details become visible through inquiries. Example: "How did Mr. Schmidt react after you informed him of the result?"
  • In the case of longer conversations or when the conversation partner is wandering around, it makes sense to summarize key statements. It gives those involved an overview and helps to organize their thoughts.


An Irish saying goes that it takes two to three years to learn to speak. To learn to listen, decades. Indeed, our ability to listen increases with age - but not necessarily our willingness to listen. If you want to shorten the waiting time, you can learn concentrated and appreciative listening earlier through exercises, reflection and feedback.