Ethan Hawley's Observations on Interpersonal Communication and Dark Listeners

The protagonist of the book The Winter of Our Discontent, Ethan Hawley makes a lot of interesting observations. Ethan thinks that, people are rarely listening each other; they’re listening to “tones and intonations” (p. 53) and from them people deduce how the speaker is feeling. Moreover, the speaker himself is talking to some “dark listener” (p. 53) within himself.

After experimenting with myself a little bit, I found out that, this is truly so. While talking to someone, we want to express my inner situation, because it’s getting ahead of us.

We want to discharge from the emotional overload by creating an illusion to ourselves that, there’s some real listener other than the “dark listener”. In reality, the conversation with the physical listener is a bridge to the conversation with our subconscious. As a result, we never want an advice from the listener, we want “corroboration” (p.93). Taking the theory about the “dark listener” into account, it is logical that, we don’t want any advice, because we want to stick to our idée fixe.

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However, we do want to hear statements which support our idea. Therefore, it makes sense why we still go to other people to ask them “their opinions”. Most of the time people tend to either not listen to the advice others give them, or listen to the advice, but never take them into consideration. The latter have their reasons why the given advice is wrong. It is very rare that people would listen to the advices of others, because they are preoccupied with their own suppositions.

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In chapter 11, on the 168th page Ethan thinks it would help him if he could take his bad temper out on Allen; it is always like that, people want to take their good/bad temper out on others.

Talking to someone when you are calm is still analogous to taking bad temper out on others, because in both cases, people try to release their excess good/bad temper. That being so, we talk to the “receptive, unjudging, and silent” (p.173) listeners “freely and without fear” (p.173), because they aren’t interfering with our thoughts.

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Ethan Hawley's Observations on Interpersonal Communication and Dark Listeners. (2022, Nov 07). Retrieved from

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