How to listen so people will talk-a book review

I’m afraid Becky’s plan will not be popular with those who focus on personal rights and free unfiltered speech, without regard for how it affects other people. But for those who want to create a new standard of listening everywhere to understand, affirm, and build relationships, this book will be a valuable resource.

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2 young men, one white, one black, talking, smiling
How to Listen So People Will Talk: Build Stronger Communication and Deeper Connections
By Becky Harling

Published in 2017 by Bethany House Publishers

I’m embarrassed to admit when I searched for this book online I typed into my browser, How to Talk so People will Listen. And it turns out, there is a book by that title.

But my faux pa illustrates why this book needed to be written:most of us would rather talk than listen. Or in the case of social media, post instead of read.

Let the wise listen

Proverbs 1:5
Becky Harling-speaker, coach, trainer

Becky Harling is a certified John Maxwell speaker, coach, and trainer; I don’t know what that means, but after reading this book, I am convinced she knows more about communication than most of us. She and her husband Steve pastored churches for many years. Now they travel internationally speaking on spiritual growth, leadership, communication, and world missions.

She quotes Maxwell in the book, along with several people I do recognize-Maya Angelou, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dale Carnegie, and Dee Brestin; the Mayo Clinic and Psychology Today; and Jesus. I appreciate authors who realize they don’t have the definitive word on anything and seek out others’ viewpoints. Literally the first words in the book are from the Bible, Proverbs 1:5

Let the wise listen and add to their learning.

Proverbs 1:5
two males talking, books on a table beside them
Keep your mouth shut.

Becky’s advice can be summarized in four words-keep your mouth shut. Fortunately for readers, she says it in a much nicer way. Most of us listen to others so they will listen to us. She wants us to listen to people say things we may not want to hear or may not like or that makes us feel uncomfortable. She gives some fairly simple suggestions for how to listen effectively-

  • Don’t be a fixer.
  • Ask great questions.(She points out that in the Bible, Jesus was a master at doing this.)
  • Show empathy (which doesn’t mean sharing what happened to you.)
  • Validate feelings.
  • Use body language to show interest.
  • Don’t be distracted.

Sounds easy, right? If you think you’re doing well at listening, test yourself with the exercises she includes at the end of each chapter. First,read one or two suggested scriptures, then ask yourself some pertinent questions, and then do real life practice. She calls these “biblically based, practical listening skills.” I think you will find them not so easy.

“Listening is like a muscle. The more we develop and train, the stronger our skills will become and the more effective we’ll become.”

two women, talking, sitting across a table, with coffee and open Bibles
Listening in conflict

I think the most helpful chapter was the one titled Practical Principles for Listening in Conflict. One tip-listen to agree. She also discusses how to avoid conflict and three rules for dealing with a toxic person. She warns-don’t stay in a physically abusive relationship.

I expected Becky’s book to be “10 quick and easy steps to perfect communication”. It was not. Becky addresses interpersonal communication between family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, since those are the people we have the most difficulty listening to, but most need to listen to.

“We are never able to go back and retrieve lost moments, so be attentive. Eliminate distractions that are robbing your ability to listen. Offer your full presence to those you love. “

Speaking of social media…

Although Becky does not address it, I think for virtual communication-email, text, social media- these principles could change the often impersonal and contentious discourse that has almost become the norm. Especially since these communication methods may lack visual clues, using listening techniques such as questions, validation, and empathy can be transformational.

man looking at a phone screen
Final thoughts

I’m afraid Becky’s plan will not be popular with those who focus on personal rights and free unfiltered speech, without regard for how it affects other people. But for those who want to create a new standard of listening everywhere to understand, affirm, and build relationships, this book will be a valuable resource.

Beckly includes a Notes section at the end which lists references for each chapter, both print and online sources.


The book links are affiliate links , as are the photo links-their use helps fund this blog and sharing the HEART of health around the world.

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. Find my other NetGalley reviews on the website.


exploring the HEART of listening

Dr. Aletha
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Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

As a family physician, I explore the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, community, and through writing. My blog, Watercress Words, informs and inspires us to live in health. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

13 thoughts on “How to listen so people will talk-a book review”

  1. How to listen so people will talk . . . that’s quite a concept. I had to sit and think about the statement for a few seconds to let its impact sink in. I tend to be a “fixer” trying to give advice or help solve a problem when the other person wants simply to talk. Thanks for sharing this book.
    Thank you for participating in Talent-Sharing Tuesdays Link-Up 21.


  2. Thank you for sharing this book review, Aletha. I have been working on my listening skills for a while now. I call the kind of listening you describe as deep listening. Suspending judgment, the need to fix something, or to form a response. Avoiding distractions, and just listening. As you say, it’s more challenging than you may think.

    Liked by 1 person

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