New Edition of a Bestseller
More than 150,000 in print!
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The Lost Art of Listening

Third Edition
How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships

Michael P. Nichols and Martha B. Straus

HardcoverPaperbacke-bookprint + e-book
March 24, 2021
ISBN 9781462545049
Price: $58.00
370 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
March 24, 2021
ISBN 9781462542741
Price: $17.95
370 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
February 22, 2021
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370 Pages
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370 Pages
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That isn't what I meant!” Truly listening and being heard is far from simple, even between people who care about each other. This perennial bestseller—now revised and updated for the digital age—analyzes how any conversation can go off the rails and provides essential skills for building mutual understanding. Thoughtful, witty, and empathic, the book is filled with vivid stories of couples, coworkers, friends, and family working through tough emotions and navigating differences of all kinds.

Learn ways you can: From renowned therapist Michael P. Nichols and new coauthor Martha B. Straus, the third edition reflects the huge impact of technology and social media on relationships, and gives advice for talking to loved ones across social and political divides

“What is true listening and why, the author asks, has it become a near-rarity in modern life? Nichols shows how to utilize this 'art by which we use empathy to reach across the space between us' to improve and repair relationships with spouses, lovers, relatives, children, friends, and colleagues, and even how to boost one's own 'listenability.' He also explains what listening isn't, explaining why people don't listen and listing obstacles to listening (especially defensiveness owing to emotional overreaction). Humor, true life examples and simple exercises make this a practical and even entertaining self-help guide.”

Publishers Weekly (on the second edition)

“Powerful and informative.”

Contemporary Psychology (on the second edition)

“Readers from every walk of life—lay readers and mental health professionals alike—will find something to like here, something that really will turn on a lightbulb or two, something that can help us all get along a bit better and listen a bit more artfully.” (on the second edition)

“I considered myself a good listener before reading this book, and was repeatedly surprised when I recognized myself in the examples of what not to do! It helped me immediately with my spouse, giving me tools to really listen and understand, even when we disagree, so we can find our way to a compromise. I love how funny the authors are and the great examples they weave in. I highly recommend this book to anyone!”

—Christina H., Brattleboro, Vermont

“This book delivers countless epiphanies that will help you become a better listener in all of your relationships. The questions in each chapter guide you to actively explore your own communication strengths and blind spots. The genius of this book comes from its well-told, engaging stories and anecdotes, which are wise and never preachy. The third edition has been superbly updated to cover the impact of technology, and offers invaluable advice for talking across our ever-widening political and social divides.”

—Anne K. Fishel, PhD, coauthor of Eat, Laugh, Talk: The Family Dinner Playbook

“This book could not have come along at a better time. With the bombardment of noise and the narrowing of our screen sizes, everyone needs to read this book to remind us that there is nothing more important than tuning in to one another. The Lost Art of Listening should be required reading!”

—Tammy Nelson, PhD, author of The New Monogamy

“As a school psychologist and trainer of helping professionals, I found the insights and ideas of this book to be immediately applicable to everything I do, from meeting with a struggling student to consulting with a discouraged parent or teacher. That’s because listening is central to effective helping and to every important relationship in our lives. The book’s many practical tips and relatable examples will help readers listen themselves into better relationships with their clients, coworkers, loved ones, and anyone else with whom they regularly interact.”

—John J. Murphy, PhD, Department of Psychology and Counseling, University of Central Arkansas

“It will be hard for readers not to see themselves, and everyone they listen to, in this book. Drs. Nichols and Straus offer an insider's look at what can go wrong in the two-sided process of communicating. Whether you want to improve communication with family, colleagues, or friends, you will learn the skills to listen for the meaning behind the message. The book also takes on the other side of conversation—speaking with clarity. Drs. Nichols and Straus masterfully demonstrate how to open conversations that invite the listener to hear.”

—Margaret Wehrenberg, PsyD, author of The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques

“In my work as a shepherding pastor, then later as a trainer of ministers at the university level, I had always wondered, 'Can empathy be taught?' I was delighted to find this vital caregiving skill addressed in this book. I have used this book in training lay caregivers, pastors, and counselors in the indispensable art of really listening. I believe it is a powerful training resource for our spiritual care and pastoral care practicum coursework. The third edition's new chapter on listening to those with whom you don’t agree could not have come at a more crucial time in our history.”

—Rev. Steven Seaton, MM, co-founder of the Pastoral Care degree programs, Mid-America Christian University

Table of Contents


I. The Yearning to Be Understood

1. "Did You Hear What I Said?": Why Listening Is So Important sample

2. "Thanks for Listening": How Listening Shapes Us and Connects Us to Each Other

3. "Why Don’t People Listen?": How Communication Breaks Down

II. The Real Reasons People Don’t Listen

4. "When Is It My Turn?": The Heart of Listening—The Struggle to Suspend Our Own Needs

5. "You Hear Only What You Want to Hear": How Hidden Assumptions Prejudice Listening

6. "Why Do You Always Overreact?": How Emotionality Makes Us Defensive

III. Getting Through to Each Other

7. "Take Your Time—I’m Listening": How to Let Go of Your Own Needs and Listen

8. "I Never Knew You Felt That Way": Empathy Begins with Openness

9. "I Can See This Is Really Upsetting You": How to Defuse Emotional Reactivity

IV. Listening in Context

10. "It Takes Two to Tango": Listening Between Intimate Partners

11. "Nobody Around Here Ever Listens to Me!": How to Listen and Be Heard within the Family

12. "I Knew You’d Understand": Being Able to Hear Friends and Colleagues

13. "I’m Not Wasting My Time Talking to That Person!": How to Listen to People It’s Impossible to Agree With


About the Authors

Michael P. Nichols, PhD, has been practicing and teaching family therapy since the 1970s. He is Professor of Psychology at the College of William and Mary. Dr. Nichols is the author of numerous books for general readers, professionals, and students.

Martha B. Straus, PhD, is Professor in the Department of Clinical Psychology at Antioch University New England in Keene, New Hampshire. Dr. Straus consults and trains internationally. The author of books including Treating Trauma in Adolescents, she maintains a small private practice in Vermont.


All readers interested in improving their personal and professional relationships by building stronger listening and communication skills.

Course Use

Widely adopted as a text in undergraduate and graduate courses in interpersonal relationships, communication, and counseling.
Previous editions published by Guilford:

Second Edition, © 2009
ISBN: 9781593859862

First Edition, © 1995
ISBN: 9781572301313