The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction, By Adam S. McHugh
The Listening Life
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: November 09, 2015
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 4412
  • ISBN: 9780830844128

*affiliate partner

Christianity Today's Book of the Year Award
Logos Association Bookstore Award's Favorite Books of the Year
Outreach Magazine Resource of the Year

"Be quick to listen, slow to speak." —James 1:19

How would our lives change if we approached every experience with the intention of listening first?

In this noisy, distracting world, it is difficult to truly hear. People talk past each other, eager to be heard but somehow deaf to what is being said. Listening is an essential skill for healthy relationships, both with God and with other people. But it is more than that: listening is a way of life.

Adam McHugh places listening at the heart of our spirituality, our relationships and our mission in the world. God himself is the God who hears, and we too can learn to hear what God may be saying through creation, through Scripture, through people. By cultivating a posture of listening, we become more attentive and engaged with those around us. Listening shapes us and equips us to be more attuned to people in pain and more able to minister to those in distress.

Our lives are qualitatively different—indeed, better—when we become listeners. Heed the call to the listening life, and hear what God is doing in you and the world.

"Listening is one of the best gifts we can give or receive. Listening changes things. Listening, the way Adam McHugh describes it, could just change the world."

Ruth Haley Barton, founder and president, Transforming Center, author of Life Together in Christ

"Adam McHugh has been a significant contributor to the conversation about how introverts experience the world. His new book, The Listening Life, has the power to reshape how both introverts and extroverts make space for deep listening in a world that swims in the shallows. Highly recommended."

Susan Cain, cofounder of Quiet Revolution, author of Quiet

"The Listening Life is the kind of book that made me at times not want to turn the page—because I needed to! What the book did was still my soul and remind me to be still before God—to silence the noise and open the closed doors to hear. In hearing we learn that in listening to God and to one another we enter into the graces of love. On every page Adam McHugh offers wisdom that slowly marches us into a deeper kind of life, one marked by listening to God in a way that teaches us how to listen to one another and to ourselves. There are two kinds of people: those who talk and those who listen—the former need to read this book slowly and listen well to the lesson about reverse listening, while the latter will discover fresh light on a discipline now deepened."

Scot McKnight, Julius R. Mantey Professor in New Testament, Northern Seminary

"If it were possible to combine the voices of Dallas Willard, N. D. Wilson and Jim Gaffigan, then what you would get is Adam S. McHugh. His writing is profound, lyrical and self-deprecating in all the right ways. There are few books I want to start again once I've finished. The Listening Life is now one of them. I adore this stunning, important book and want to give it to everyone I know."

Emily P. Freeman, author of Simply Tuesday

"Adam McHugh is a voice worth listening to. His new book will be a gift to anyone who wants to cultivate what Jesus called 'ears to hear.'"

John Ortberg, senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church

"At a time when we are drowning in words—both digital and spoken—this quiet little book throws us a life preserver. The Listening Life is gentle, thoughtful, biblical, and eminently practical. It outlines a broad theology of listening alongside specific and clear practices that teach the reader to listen in a new way. Whether you are a loud lover of words or a shy lover of solitude, this book will likely convict you."

Tish Harrison Warren, Christianity Today, The 2017 Book Awards

"This book is an essential antidote and a welcome aid to listen well—to God and to one another."

Roy Howard, The Presbyterian Outlook, April 5, 2016

"I say this more often than I actually do it, but this is a book that I will read again. It is easier to read about listening than actually listen, as McHugh says, but this was a very good reminder of why listening is important, and how we can better listen to God, those around us, and ourselves."

Adam Shields,, December 15, 2015

"McHugh is the author of The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction, in which he outlines a dozen traps people can fall into if they don't approach listening in the right way. . . . Good listeners are patient and unselfish, and they can recognize when it's their turn to speak. When they do so, they provide reassuring commentary or ask gentle, probing questions. That is the express lane to conflict resolution."

Chris Weller, Tech Insider, December 12, 2015

"Hearing is the first sense we develop and the last to go in death. But listening is not a natural capacity. The Bible is clear on this point. We do not automatically listen to God, others, or even ourselves. McHugh's book can change the way you approach your daily conversations. It may even change your life. You should listen."

John Koessler, Christianity Today, November 2015

"Throughout his wise and witty work, McHugh (Introverts in the Church) lobbies readers to prick up their ears. 'Listening,' he writes, 'comes first.' McHugh predicates this marvelous book on what lousy listeners we are, then proceeds to offer means for changing our habits. . . . McHugh writes humbly about learning to hear deeply, because 'the beginning of discipleship is listening.' He writes intimately, telling his own stories in the same tone as he retells tales from the Bible. McHugh mixes more formal writing with conversational sections, liberally quoting colleagues and resources (from John Coltrane to Homer Simpson) and including personal anecdotes, aphorisms, and loving admonishments tied together with keen humor. This is a persuasive book for those with ears ready to listen to what McHugh has to say."

Publishers Weekly, October 12, 2015

"Like many introverts, I can be vain about my listening skills, but reading McHugh's book forced me to reconsider my self-perception. It's true that being more quiet than talkative means that I am more available to hear, but do I really listen? Or do I only half listen to the person talking while the rest of me is listening to my own brain chatter? . . . . McHugh writes with considerable charm and a great deal of wisdom and he gave me lots to think about. . . . The Listening Life was not written for me. But it had something to say to me anyway. So I listened."

Sophia Dembling, Psychology Today, January 26, 2016

"Adam McHugh helps his readers to see that the skill of listening well begins with the heart, silent and open first to God for His word, then ready to hear others before speaking."

Michele Morin, Living Our Days, January 1, 2016

"Perhaps there's not another gift, art or skill so in need of resurgent development today than the discipline of listening. Yes, words matter—today, they're abundant. Yet the need and the ability to discern what's behind them matters even more for those who would be peacemakers in a painfully polarized society. To hear is to heal; to listen is to love. In The Listening Life, Adam McHugh invites us not only to imagine ourselves 'quick to hear and slow to speak,' but to embrace listening as a way of life in order to diffuse divisions and discern the divine."

Mark and Linda DeYmaz, 14th Annual Outreach Resources of the Year, March/April 2017


1. The Listening Life
2. The King Who Listens
3. Listening to God
4. Listening to Scripture
5. Listening to Creation
6. Listening to Others
7. Listening to People in Pain
8. Listening to Your Life
9. The Society of Reverse Listening


You May Also Like

Adam McHugh

Adam McHugh is a wine tour guide, sommelier, and Certified Specialist of Wine. He is the author of The Listening Life and Introverts in the Church and a regular contributor to Edible Santa Barbara & Wine Country. He lives in California's Santa Ynez Valley.