How to “listen” in Chinese
How well do you truly listen? Let's take a cue from the Chinese about how to use more than just your ears to truly listen. The Chinese character for “listen” (tīng) is more complex than meets the eye.

“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”
― David W. Augsburger

How well do you truly listen? We spend a good deal of time helping you use your words to communicate more effectively across cultures. For example, we gave you A Lesson in Brazilian Portuguese and taught you How to Say “Happy Holidays” Around the World. Then, we reminded you that Silence Can Speak Volumes and that even emojis can be misunderstood across cultures.

Now, we’re taking a cue from the Chinese about how to use more than just your ears to truly listen. Let’s examine the Chinese character for “listen” (tīng) as seen above:

耳 (top left) = ear. You use your ear to hear the sounds of a communication.

王 (bottom left) = king. The three lines represent heaven, the people, and earth. The king rules over all three. Whoever is talking is king.

十 目 (top right) = ten and eye. Observe the speaker carefully (think non-verbals) as if you had ten eyes instead of just two.

一 (middle right) = one. Give your undivided attention to the one person speaking.

心 (bottom right) = heart. Connect with the feelings that underly the speaker’s words.

The Chinese representation of listening involves engaging more than just your sense of hearing. You must use your sense of sight, touch, and perhaps even smell or taste to fully engage.


One way to start on the path to deeper listening in your next conversation:
Ask a question to which you truly don’t know the answer. 😉