Listening and Being Heard

Flint McGlaughlin (MECLABS), On Influence as the Product of Proximity

Some of the most important teaching occurs when we are not trying to teach. The teacher should be more motivated by genuine concern than by the content of a curriculum. The object of the teacher’s focus should not be the content; the object should be the person.

Sometimes I can teach more by being near than by saying more. Natural proximity is essential. Influence is always the product of proximity (even if it isn’t geographic). And often the teacher can achieve more through (subtle) influence than through (overt) instruction.


Genuine concern, being near, proximity, and simple presence are all deeply connected to listening. It’s hard to capture the role of listening in teaching and overall communication. The emphasis on “(subtle) influence” over and against “(overt) instruction” gets close.

Nine times out of ten, what wins or loses the heart of student (or customer) isn’t what you say but how you listen.

Listening generates the capital necessary to speak and be heard.